Kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs that are present in either side of the body of vertebrates. The basic functions of the kidney include filtering blood to produce urine, retaining and discharging water, hormonal secretion, eliminating waste and nitrogen, and maintaining blood pressure and fluid levels in the body.
Sometimes, kidneys fail to function because of kidney stones, infections, kidney cancer, renal infarction, glomerulonephritis, blood clotting in the kidneys, and the polycystic kidney disease, symptoms of which may include pain in the abdomen or the lower back area.
Pain in the lower back area is often neglected, but it should be noted that back ache has a possibility of being associated with kidney diseases.
Lower Back Pain – Associated Kidney Diseases
The area between the ribs and the hips is known as flank and any pain in the flank area or the upper abdomen area is usually associated with kidney problems. Some of the kidney diseases that may cause pain in the lower back area are discussed in detail below.
1. Kidney Stones: Kidney stones or renal calculi are small crystal-like particles that develop in the kidneys and cause severe lower back pain due to kidney stones may even extend up to the groin. The pain is generally sharp and constant and may be experienced in waves.
Kidney stones may occur due to dietary disorders or hereditary factors. Sometimes, kidney stones are so small that they get eliminated through urination without any symptoms. However, sometimes they may grow to a large size that they may need them to be reduced to smaller particles surgically through a process called lithotripsy. Medications such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol are often prescribed by doctors for pain relief.
If you have kidney stones, here are some self-care steps that you can take:
• Drink plenty of water.
• Avoid foods that are rich in oxalate such as spinach and beets.
• Eat healthy, homemade food.
2. Kidney Infections: Kidney infection or pyelonephritis occurs when bacteria, specifically e.coli, find its way into the urethra and further through the bladder into the kidney. This is a urinary tract infection that should be treated immediately. Antibiotics are recommended for treating kidney infections and for speedy recovery, one should make sure not to miss their dose of antibiotics.
In severe cases of pyelonephritis, surgery or I.V. antibiotics are recommended which requires careful surveillance of patients.
In order to get rid of lower back pain due to kidney infection, one should take the following steps:
• Apply heat pack on the area where pain resides.
• Drink plenty of water.
• Avoid consumption of alcohol or coffee.
3. Kidney Cancer: This is also known as renal cell carcinoma. Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type. On the other hand, Wilms’ tumor, another type of kidney cancer, is more prominent in children.
Causes of kidney cancer include increasing age, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, and genetic conditions such as the Von Hippel-Lindau disease.
Constant and sharp back pain specifically under the ribs is one of the symptoms of kidney cancer. Various types of surgeries exist for treating kidney cancer:
• Nephrectomy: This is a type of surgery where the affected kidney is permanently removed.
• Nephron Sparing: This is a type of surgery where the tumor is is taken out by removing a part of the kidney instead of removing the entire kidney. This surgery is also known as partial nephrectomy.
Apart from surgery, other treatment options include the following:
• Cryoablation: This treatment involves a procedure that helps in destroying cancer cells by using extreme cold.
• Radio Frequency Ablation: This type of treatment involves heating and burning of the cancer cells.
• Biological Therapy: In this type of therapy, certain drugs are given to the patient so that their immune system becomes capable of fighting the kidney cancer.
• Radiation Therapy: This is a therapy in which the cancer cells are shrunk or killed with high radiation similar to X-rays.
• Targeted Therapy: This is a therapy in which the patient is treated with certain drugs that help in targeting specific areas of cancer cells to prevent them from growing and spreading.
4. Renal Infarction: Renal infarction is a kidney disease where the blood flow to the kidney gets hindered resulting in tissue necrosis and sometimes, even death. Renal infarction can cause intense lower back pain or flank pain and should not be mistaken for regular back pain.
Renal Infarction treatment options include:
• Provision of Opioids
• Angioplasty Surgery
• Embolectomy Surgery
• Treatment with Nonsteroidal Anti Inflammatory Medications (NSAIDs)
Consult a nephrologist for options that are available for the treatment of above mentioned conditions.