Your low back pain has returned – a sharp pinch that sticks around for hours. Worse yet, you’re visiting the bathroom more often and it’s painful. What’s going on? Many might link these symptoms to aging or a back problem. In reality, they usually point to a serious kidney condition that needs treatment.
Kidney stones and even kidney infections often mimic the symptoms of benign low back pain. Though they share the same symptom profile, each condition has vastly different implications. Where benign low back pain might require simple stretch exercises, heat treatment and bed rest, a kidney condition could call for in-patient treatment and even surgery.
Low back pain often occurs as we age, the result of years of carrying heavy bags, playing contact sports or even improper exercise techniques. Kidney pain, meanwhile, happens when something is out of balance: ureters are blocked, a mass is affecting your kidney, etc.
Since both can trigger nagging aches in the middle to low back, it’s easy to mix the two and delay treatment – a potentially dangerous mistake.
One way to tell the difference is by noting the type of pain you experience. A dull, achy pain is typically simple low back pain. When pain is sharp, piercing and comes on in bursts, the kidney is likely the culprit.
Here are more ways to tell the difference between these two conditions and get proper treatment:
Low Back Pain:
- Is dull and achy
- Occurs largely in the middle of the back, though pinched nerves can create sharp pain that travels from the back to the legs and other lower extremities
- Is continuous. It typically settles in gradually and it gets worse
- Is diagnosed with X-rays and MRI scanning
- Is sharp
- Is often in the flank and lateral aspects of the low back, usually below the ribcage. Pain can sometimes radiate to the groin area, following the path of the ureters
- Occurs in episodes – bursts of pain that come on strong for a short period of time
- May be accompanied by other symptoms like blood in the urine and painful urination (kidney stones), fever and chills (kidney infection)
- Is diagnosed with urinalysis, Helical CT scanning and X-rays
Take time to monitor your low back pain. Keeping a symptom journal can make it easier to spot a pattern or anything unusual. Once you feel confident you have an idea what’s causing your pain, arrange a consultation with a specialist and start down the road to healing. Life is too short to live with back pain!