Trying to understand what is causing back pain that comes out of nowhere, whether a spinal issue or a kidney issue can be quite challenging. Doing a self-examination, retracing steps, and constantly thinking about it is exhausting. The right healthcare professional that has experience in spinal issues, as well as, understanding various health conditions that can contribute to spine pain, and making the correct diagnosis can help in developing the proper treatment plan or refer the individual to the proper specialist.
The organs are located below the ribs, close to the middle/thoracic back. Healthy kidneys support and help with:
- The elimination of waste from the body
- Regulating blood pressure
- Making red blood cells
- Performing other essential jobs
Individuals with a kidney condition can sometimes experience back pain caused by the disease or condition. Kidney problems like:
- Kidney diseases
These can easily be mistaken for mid and upper back pain. However, if there is persistent soreness or irritation it could mean a more significant health issue associated with the kidneys could be present.
Spine Problem or Stone/s
If there is a feeling of kidney pain it is possible to come from one of two places and/or both. This could be distension/ballooning of the capsule called the ureter that surrounds the kidneys. The ureters are the tubes that are attached to each kidney and transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Urine contains salts and minerals. These minerals can clump together creating a kidney stone and block the ureters. The ureter contracts from the stone that is creating the blockage.
When there is a blockage from a stone, the urine can back up and cause the capsule to expand causing pain. The pain location is usually on one side and is categorized as a dull ache – meaning the pain is constantly present and causing discomfort. Chronic back pain caused by nerve compression is typically on one side like sciatica.
The pain from a stone can be only slight unless the stone is trying to move. Then the pain can be severe and last for several minutes before it passes. However, if the pain is excruciating and a kidney stone is suspected, go to the hospital and get an examination. Collecting the stone is crucial when it passes in order to be analyzed. A stone analysis will help in figuring the proper treatment to prevent another kidney stone/s from developing.
Spine Problem or Infection
A kidney infection could be another cause of back pain. Kidney infection/s are typically caused by bacteria. A dull throbbing could be sensed in the middle and/or upper back.
Signs and symptoms associated with infection often include back, side, and groin pain as well as a combination of symptoms like:
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Constant sensation of needing to use the bathroom
Causes that can increase the chances of developing an infection.
- Kidney stone/s
- Nerve damage that affects the bladder
- Spinal damage that does not allow the bladder to be emptied
- Urinary tract infection
Older individuals can develop kidney infections without any underlying conditions. There are rare genetic diseases like polycystic kidney disease and Fabry disease that can cause kidney pain and be mistaken for back pain.
Telling the Difference
There is no quick and easy way to figure out if it is back or kidney pain. Especially, if a constant aching is present. Seeing an experienced doctor or chiropractor is the recommended option for getting a formal and accurate diagnosis. A physical exam, family, and personal medical history will be collected along with various tests. Tests can include:
- Urine analysis
- Abdominal X-ray
- CT scan
Pain medications and specific fluids are usually prescribed along with time to pass the stone. Antibiotics can be prescribed for kidney infections, chiropractic treatment can be suggested for spinal alignment/myofascial tense muscle release, and home remedies can help treat any discomfort. These can include:
- Using ice/heat on the area where there is discomfort
- Staying properly hydrated
- Diet adjustment/s
- Taking over the counter pain meds when necessary
Back Pain Specialist
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Tozzi, P et al. “Low back pain and kidney mobility: local osteopathic fascial manipulation decreases pain perception and improves renal mobility.” Journal of bodywork and movement therapies vol. 16,3 (2012): 381-391. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2012.02.001