The Doctor's Prognosis

Concerned that your back pain could be related to a kidney infection? Here's how to tell the difference between back pain and a kidney infection, courtesy of Dr. Scott Fishman, chief of the Division of Pain Medicine and professor of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at the University of California, Davis.

"Pain stemming from a kidney infection typically is in the area of the back where the kidneys lie, located to the sides of the spine, just above the hips," Fishman says. "Kidney related pain often presents as tenderness in this area. Direct injury or trauma to the back -- over the area where the kidneys are located -- can cause injury to the kidneys themselves, and that is why getting struck in this area is commonly referred to as a 'kidney punch.'

"Kidney infection pain usually comes from the organ itself but often appears as back pain," he says. "Kidney pain is also quite tricky because it can radiate to many different parts of the body. It is also acute in origin, meaning that it usually has a very rapid onset, and typically does not last any longer than the infection in the kidneys last. Kidney infection pain goes away with the healing of a kidney infection, or passing of a kidney stone. Back pain from trauma to the back, however, usually does not go away this quickly."

Fishman also says pain from a low-back injury can initially appear very similar to the type of pain from a kidney infection. However, an injured back typically isn't worsened by gently pushing on the area of the back directly over the kidneys. And usually, there are other signs that clearly distinguish the difference between the pain from a kidney infection and back trauma. Symptoms from a kidney infection, for example, may also include pain with urination, fever, chills and blood in the urine that you can see with the naked eye or by laboratory analysis of the urine.

"On the other hand, an acute onset of back pain may be due to a particular injury, especially if the patient recently hurt themselves with activities," Fishman says. "I suggest to my patients who are young women with new onset of back pain (and) who may have a history of kidney infections, that they be tested for a possible kidney problem, since their history indicates that they may be prone to these infections."

Want to know more about taking care of both your back and kidneys? Keep reading for lots more information.