Flank pain: What are the causes?

Flank pain is characterized as discomfort in the upper abdomen or sides and back. It forms in the region beneath the ribs and above the pelvis. Generally, the pain is worse on one side of the body.

Many individuals experience flank pain at least once and the discomfort it causes is usually brief. Nevertheless, if it is continuous or severe, it might be an indication of a serious medical condition such as urinary tract infection or dehydration. In addition, kidney stones or other kidney issues might also cause persistent flank pain.

Even though flank pain is often an indication of a kidney issue, it might be due to other medical ailments if it is accompanied by other symptoms. It is vital to consult a doctor if the pain is severe or chronic especially if other symptoms are present.

What are the causes?

  • Kidney abscess

    Many individuals experience flank pain at least once and the discomfort it causes is usually brief.

  • Kidney infection
  • Dehydration
  • Kidney stones
  • Shingles
  • Bladder infection
  • Arthritis especially one that affects the spine
  • Tietze‚Äôs syndrome
  • Disc disease
  • Spinal fracture
  • Muscle spasm
  • Pinched nerve in the back

What are the associated symptoms?

Flank pain can be described as a dull and achy or cramping and sharp. It can come and go in waves.

Indications of a kidney issue

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Pain during urination
  • Blood-streaked urine

A doctor must be consulted right away if any of these symptoms are present.

Indications of dehydration

Seek medical care if the individual suffers from continuous pain along with these symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Excessive thirst
  • Diminished sweating
  • Rapid pulse
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Dark urine
  • Constipation
  • Diminished urine output

Dehydration should be corrected right away. If excess water is lost, the body will not normally function which can lead to serious complications including shock.


Adequate rest is the main treatment for any type of flank pain. For minor cases, it eventually settles with a combination of rest and physical therapy. Specific exercises might be recommended by the doctor for quick relief from the muscle spasms.


For flank pain brought about by inflammation such as from infections and arthritis, the treatment is based on the specific condition.

Kidney infections might require admission in a healthcare facility. Antibiotics are given if a kidney infection is present. These might be given intravenously.

Physical therapy and exercise routines are often used to manage arthritis in the spine. Anti-inflammatory medications might also be given to reduce the inflammation and discomfort. In some cases, surgery is required to fix a spinal issue.

Kidney stones

Pain medications and increased intake of fluids is required to encourage the passing of the kidney stone. In most instances, kidney stones do not require surgery.

In some cases, though, the doctor might perform a minor procedure called lithotripsy if the bigger kidney stones could not easily exit the body while urinating. The procedure involves high-frequency sound waves to disintegrate the kidney stones so that they can pass through the ureters.