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Kidney Infection Back Pain

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Kidney Infection Back Pain

writtenByWritten by: Sara Menges
Sara Menges

Sara Menges

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December 10, 2020 Read Time - 9 minutes

Kidney Infection Back Pain

Can kidney problems give you back pain? The main indicator of whether a urinary tract infection has migrated from the bladder to the kidneys is a fever and back pain.

Kidney infections are serious and require immediate medical attention. It’s important to know the symptoms of a kidney infection so that you know when to seek treatment.

What is a Kidney Infection?

A kidney infection, medically known as pyelonephritis, is a common type of urinary tract infection (UTI), caused when bacteria has entered the body’s urinary tract and travelled from the bladder into one or both kidneys. Since a kidney infection commonly develops from an untreated bladder infection, the two share the same signs and symptoms.

Common urinary tract infection (UTI) signs and symptoms include:

  • Bad smelling urine
  • Burning or painful urination
  • Dark and cloudy urine that may appear reddish or pinkish from blood
  • Abdomen and pelvis pain
  • Mild fever under 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

Common indicators that an infection has spread to the kidneys include:

  • Chills and shaking
  • Fever exceeding 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Back pain
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Causes of Kidney Infections

Kidney infections are a result of bacteria entering the kidneys. While there are many causes for kidney infection, the most common is from a pre-existing infection in the urinary tract like a bladder infection.

The urinary tract, or urinary system, is made up of organs that extract, hold, and transports waste as urine from your system. The organs include two kidneys, two ureters, a bladder, and a urethra.

Kidneys process blood to produce urine. The urine travels via the ureters to the bladder where it is stored, waiting to release during the urination process through the urethra. When bacteria end up in the urethra it can travel to the bladder and cause an infection that turns into a kidney infection when it moves to one or both kidneys.

Infections in the urinary tract are most commonly caused by the bacteria Eschericha coli, also known as E. coli. About 90 percent of uncomplicated urinary tract infections are caused by E. coli that can be found in the colons of humans and animals as well as their fecal waste.

E. coli can spread to the genitals and into the urinary tract through improper wiping or toilet backsplash. Bacteria transfer can also occur during sex.

Not all kidney infections develop from a bladder infection. Kidney infection pain can occur from other conditions that prevent the natural urine flow can also cause an infection to occur such as blockages to the ureters from a large kidney stone.

People with weakened immune systems may also develop a kidney infection through their bloodstream if bacterial or fungal infections on the skin seep into the blood that is processed in the kidney.

Read: Get Antibiotics For Kidney Infection Treatment Online

Kidney Infection Back Pain vs General Back Pain

General Back Pain

Back or flank pain is a common result of kidney infections but has several key differences from general back pain. So, what does kidney infection back pain feel like?

Back pain is generally experienced anywhere in the lower or upper back and butt muscles. Back pains can be caused by multiple things including strains and sprains that can damage the muscles or ligaments in the back.

Activities such as lifting heavy objects, sudden movements that place too much stress on the back, and twisting or impactful sports can induce back pain.

Kidney Infection Back Pain

Where does your back hurt if you have a kidney infection? If the pain is associated with the kidneys it can cause pain on both sides of the lower back and will be concentrated in the area between the ribs and hips, also known as flanks making kidney infection pain often referred to as flank pain.

Severe kidney infections like that from a kidney stone can result in sharp pains. Additional areas that may be in pain due to a kidney infection are the upper abdomen or the genital areas.

Back pain may come and go depending on bodily movement and may be triggered by prolonged positions such as sitting in one posture or standing in place for a while. There is usually tenderness to the touch in any area that a muscle has been strained to cause the back pain.

Kidney infection back pain will generally be constant and can be dull or severe depending on the source of the infection. An increase in pain may be triggered by excessive intake of fluids or when pressure is applied on the kidneys that is located toward your back, to the sides of your spine, and directly above your hips. Besides areas surrounding the kidneys, there shouldn’t be any tenderness to the touch.

When should I be worried about lower back pain? It is important to take into consideration other signs and symptoms of kidney infections such as nausea, vomiting and fever, as doing so can help you distinguish between general back pain and that due to a kidney infection.

Indications of the major signs and symptoms of a kidney infection on top of a significant change to your usual pattern of urination are good indicators to contact your doctor. People who have greater risk of developing a kidney infection, including pregnant women, should be extra vigilant about noticing signs early on to prevent complications.

Read: Best Antibiotic for a UTI

Treatments for Kidney Infections

Kidney infections in men or women will typically require antibiotics. Don’t rely on home remedies alone to take care of kidney infections.

Usually, doctors will prescribe empiric antibiotics to cover all the bases of potential bacteria that initially caused the infection until they can target the specific bacteria causing the infection.

A variety of available antibiotics are usually prescribed for at least a full week. Normally, you won’t require a stay at a hospital for a kidney infection if you can move around and consistently keep down oral antibiotics.

If you exhibit severe symptoms, including kidney infection symptoms or back pain, or cannot keep down the medication due to constant vomiting, you may be hospitalized so that your doctor may administer antibiotics and fluids intravenously.

Pregnant women are most at risk of needing such additional care and may be recommended to stay in the hospital for careful monitoring.

Other people that may require hospital stays as a result of kidney infections include those with sickle cell anemia, people aged 60 or over, patients in severe pain, and those experiencing severe vomiting.

If the kidney infection progresses enough to create an abscess in the kidney, you may require more serious treatment.

Abscesses cannot be cured with antibiotics alone. To drain them, doctors will perform a nephrostomy, which involves placing a tube through your back, into the kidney. People with structural issues in the urinary tract often will need surgery to prevent re-occurring kidney infections.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.


Home Remedies for Kidney Infections

Home remedies can support recovery time from kidney infections as well as act as preventative measures to prevent recurring symptoms from occurring.

Foods and Drinks for Kidney Infections

While staying hydrated is one of the most important things to do to ensure frequent flushing of bacteria from the urinary tract, you don’t always have to consume water to achieve this goal.

Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties and can be easily mixed with warm water and honey to drink. Parsley also effectively flushes out toxins in the body when consumed as a drink.

Drinking lots of fluids can also prevent constipation from occurring and further irritating kidney infection symptoms.

Fiber rich foods such as apples and cabbages are also effective preventative measures for constipation. Foods high in phosphorous should be avoided until an infection is cured because infected kidneys prevent organs from properly regulating phosphorous levels in the body.

Other Home Remedies for Kidney Infections

To alleviate kidney infection pain in the lower back and abdomen areas, hot compresses can be used. Kidney infections can cause the surrounding muscles to spasm and become painful.

Heating pads can be used to increase blood flow to speed up healing with the increase levels of oxygen to the area from the blood cells. Heat therapy also stretches the soft tissues and decreases stiffness to allow the muscles in the area to relax. Feelings of pain and soreness will also be reduced, even if temporarily, as heat receptors in the body can block the effect of pain to be detected.

Although a bath of Epsom salt can detoxify your body and help rid any waster or bacteria, bubble baths are not recommended for those with a kidney infection. Frequent baths can remove the protective mucous covering the urethra and some chemicals present in soaps can also provide easy entry for the bacteria into the kidneys.

Read: Get Back Pain Treatment Online

Prevention of Kidney Infections

Kidney infections are the result of bladder infections migrating to one or both kidneys. Here are some methods to reduce your risk of UTIs and kidney infections:

  • Maintain personal hygiene habits such as washing your genitals and wiping front to back.
  • Individuals with indwelling bladder catheters should remember to have their catheters changed regularly to avoid irritation and infection. Make sure to clean and monitor the area surrounding where the catheter enters the urethra.
  • Pee when you need to. Don’t hold it, and try to completely empty your bladder without rushing anything.
  • Urinate soon after sex, and make sure to practice safe sex in general.
  • Diaphragms, unlubricated condoms, and spermicidal lubes can potentially contribute to infection. Consider switching to different birth control methods if recurring infections are an issue.

If you suffer any symptoms of a urinary tract or kidney infection, talk to your doctor immediately. The faster you act, the more effective the treatment.

If you experience any of these symptoms, call or book online with PlushCare to set up a phone appointment with a top U.S. doctor today.

Read More of our Kidney Infection Series:


PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information. Kidney infection. Accessed on August 28, 2020.

Mayo Clinic. Kidney Infection. Accessed September 20, 2019 at Kidney Infection. Accessed February, 6, 2021 at

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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