Back pain is one of the many symptoms of kidney stones. Also known as renal lithiasis and nephrolithiasis, kidney stones are deposits of salts and minerals that get accumulated and harden over time or crystallize inside the kidneys. These stones most commonly form and are found in the kidneys but they can move in the urinary tract. They may end up in the urinary bladder. One in every eleven Americans, mostly males, will have kidney stones at some point in their life. Not all cases are severe. Kidney stones can be asymptomatic if they are too small and may even pass with the urine without one knowing. But the stones will cause a lot of pain and can lead to complications if they are substantially larger. The smallest kidney stones can be a fraction of an inch and the largest can be as big as the kidney itself.
Is lower back pain a sign of kidney stones?
Most people will feel no pain or discomfort at the time of formation of the stones. It is only when the stones begin to move around in the urinary tract that one feels mild to severe pain, depending on the size of the stones. Lower back pain is caused by kidney stones when they start to move into the narrow ureter, leading to a blockage. The increased pressure causes pain in the back, sides and in the belly. It is also common to feel pain just under the ribs. Every year, over a million people seek emergency medical care due to lower back pain caused by kidney stones.
What does it feel like if you have kidney stones?
Most symptoms of kidney stones will be experienced when the crystallized minerals, salts and uric acid move into the ureter, which is the tube connecting the kidney and the urinary bladder.
In addition to the severe pain in the lower back and sides, you would feel pain in the groin and lower abdomen, urinating can be painful and the urine could be brownish, reddish or pinkish. The urine could be cloudy and there is usually a foul odor. Vomiting and nausea are common symptoms of kidney stones. You would have a frequent urge to urinate, regardless of how much urine your body secretes. Anyone with an infection in the kidneys or the urinary tract may have fever and will feel strong chills. If the pain is too severe or there is blood in the urine, you should immediately see a doctor. If the pain is accompanied by vomiting, nausea, fever or difficulty to urinate, see a doctor.
Where do you feel kidney pain in the back?
The exact location of lower back pain caused by kidney stones varies from person to person. The intensity and location of pain will also vary for a person depending on the size and movement of the stones in the urinary tract. Usually, the pain begins at the sides in the lower back and it may spread to the belly, abdomen and groin. The pain may rise upward and you may feel it under your ribs. Pain in the back may also move sideways, up or down depending on the nerve fibers that get activated by the increased pressure caused by the stones blocking the ureter.
The pain may or may not be persistent. Most people will experience different phases of pain. The pain may subside if the blockage caused by the stones alleviates the pressure for a while. The pain will recur when the pressure increases. The ureter tries to get rid of the stones by contracting. As it does so, the narrow passage will become narrower, leading to a more acute blockage. This may increase the pain temporarily. Such waves of severe pain usually last for some minutes. The severe pain will subside once the ureter stops contracting in an attempt to push out the stones but you would feel the pain again in a few hours or perhaps in a few minutes. Kidney stones are not fatal but they can cause severe complications if left untreated. It is best to see a doctor if you have even mild lower back pain which has no apparent cause.