Kidney Infection Back Pain

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Kidney Infection Back Pain

Sara Menges

Written by Sara Menges

Sara Menges

Sara Menges

Sara enjoys research, art, and seeking a sustainably fun life, balancing physical and mental health.

November 24, 2021 / Read Time 7 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. 

Therefore, it is important to know the symptoms of a kidney infection so that you know when to seek treatment.

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What is a Kidney Infection?

A kidney infection, medically known as pyelonephritis, is a common type of urinary tract infection (UTI), caused when bacteria have entered the body’s urinary tract and traveled 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

Causes of Kidney Infections

Kidney infections are a result of bacteria entering the kidneys. While there are many causes for a 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, comprises organs that extract, hold, and transport 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, they 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 Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli. About 90 percent of uncomplicated urinary tract infections are caused by E. coli, a bacteria  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. Bacterial transfer can also occur during sex.

Other conditions that prevent the natural urine flow can increase the risk that an infection may occur, such as blockages to the ureters from a large kidney stone.

Not all kidney infections develop from a bladder infection. 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.

Kidney Infection Back Pain vs. General Back Pain

General Back Pain

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.

Back pain may come and go depending on bodily movement and may be triggered by prolonged 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

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 pain 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.

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. Besides areas surrounding the kidneys, there shouldn’t be any tenderness to the touch.

When should I be worried about lower back pain due to a kidney infection? First, it is important to consider 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 urination pattern are good indicators that it's time  to contact your doctor. People who have a greater risk of developing a kidney infection, including pregnant women, should be extra vigilant about noticing signs of a kidney infection early on to prevent complications.

Treatments for Kidney Infections

Kidney infections in men or women will typically require antibiotics. While home remedies exist, don’t rely on them alone to take care of kidney infections. Delayed treatment can result in a very serious blood infection called sepsis. 

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.

Suppose you exhibit severe symptoms, including kidney infection symptoms or back pain, or cannot keep down the medication due to constant vomiting. In that case, 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 who may require hospital stays due to kidney infections include those with sickle cell anemia, people aged 60 or over, patients in severe pain, and those experiencing severe vomiting. In addition, if the kidney infection progresses enough to create an abscess in the kidney, you may require more serious treatment.

You cannot cure abscesses with antibiotics alone. Instead, doctors will perform a nephrostomy to drain them, which involves placing a tube through your back into the kidney. In addition, people with structural issues in the urinary tract often will need surgery to prevent recurring kidney infections.

  1. 1

    Book on our free mobile app or website.

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  2. 2

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

  3. 3

    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 and other irritating kidney infection symptoms from occurring.

Fiber-rich foods such as apples and cabbages are also effective preventative measures for constipation. You should avoid foods high in phosphorus until an infection is cured, because infected kidneys prevent organs from properly regulating phosphorus levels in the body.

Other Home Remedies for Kidney Infections

To alleviate kidney infection pain in the lower back and abdomen areas, you can use hot compresses. Kidney infections can cause the surrounding muscles to spasm and become painful. You can also use heating pads to increase blood flow to speed up healing with increased oxygen levels to the area from the blood cells. 

Heat therapy also makes it easier to stretch 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.

Bubble baths are not recommended for those with a kidney infection. Frequent baths can remove the protective mucus covering the urethra, and some chemicals present in soaps can cause irritation, making it easier for bacteria to enter the urinary system. .

  1. 1

    Book on our free mobile app or website.

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

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

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

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. Additionally, make sure to clean and monitor the area surrounding where the catheter enters the urethra.

  • Urinate  when you need to. Don’t hold it, and try to empty your bladder completely.

  • 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 will be. If you experience any of these symptoms, call or book online with PlushCare to set up a phone or video appointment with an experienced doctor today.

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