Lower Back Pain vs. Kidney Pain – How to differentiate?

Back pain is one of the most common issues we experience. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish an issue between the lower back (known as mechanical lower back pain) specifically, and kidney-based pain such as kidney stone pain, infection and other pathologies.

This blog aims to point out some of the basics to help you decide on the right course of action.


  • Along with constant back pain, are you experiencing a fever, vomiting and nausea? Is urinating painful or the colour of your urine different to normal? – these tend to represent kidney problems.
  • Other symptoms that can occur with kidney-based issues are general fatigue, loss in appetite and rashes along with pain into groin and stomach regions.
  • Are you feeling stiff after prolonged lying, sitting or standing? Is the pain worse on bending or lifting based activities? Are you tender on touch and experiencing back spasms? – these tend to suggest a lower back pain picture.
  • With mechanical back pain you can also experience pain moving up the back or numbness and tingling from the lower back, buttock as well as into the legs.


  • Let us turn the clock back a day or two, can you remember doing an activity that put strain or stress on you back or experienced a long journey – these are common causes of mechanical lower back pain.
  • Have you had previous lower back issues? Can you relate the present pain to those previous occasions?
  • Have you had previous issues with the kidneys, are you experiencing similar symptoms to those you had before?

Area Affected

  • Where is your pain? Local to the ‘flank’ and one-sided can suggest a kidney-based source while more central is more common with mechanical back pain.
  • Unfortunately for both issues the sites affected tend to overlap.

Nature of pain

  • Is the pain constant and you are unable to influence it? This may suggest the kidney as a source of the issue.
  • Can you influence it with movement, painkillers, heat – if you can this is more consistent with mechanical back pain.


  • In all eventualities gentle movement is best, with both lower back pain as well as kidney pain – Physiotherapy is very useful to identify which movements will benefit you best.
  • With mechanical lower back pain heat can be useful to relax tight muscles, increase blood flow.
  • Using over the counter medications (speak to a pharmacist if you are not sure) can help in relieving mechanical lower back pain whereas potentially if there is no significant difference this may indicate other issues such as kidney pain.

If you have any doubts it would be strongly recommended to seek medical advice from your GP or an out of hours Doctor. If these points suggest mechanical lower back pain, seeing a Physiotherapist can both further confirm this and then aim to create a solution to your symptoms.