Welcome to Buoy Health

Learn about your side pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your side pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Side Pain Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having side pain.

Take a quiz
Your Side Pain May Also be Known as:
Aches and pains in flank
Aches and pains in oblique
Aches and pains in side
Flank ache
Flank discomfort
Flank hurts
Flank is painful
Flank pain
Flank soreness
He hurt his flank

Side Pain Symptoms

Side pain, also known as flank pain, can be concerning. We are more accustomed to belly pain up-front, from upset stomachs or constipation, but the sides and back of our abdomens seem spared from these attacks. Specifically, the "flank" refers to the meaty area on the side of the body between the ribs and the hip, though you may also feel pain spreading around towards your back, as well.

Certain people are more prone to develop side pain symptoms from a variety of conditions. Flank pain is often associated with diseases of the kidney, but it is not the only cause of side pain.

Flank pain may be associated with these common side pain symptoms:

Side Pain Causes Overview

The side of your abdomen is most commonly associated with the location of your kidneys. The kidneys are lima bean-shaped organs in the back of your upper abdomen and about the size of your fist. The side of your body is nearby to other organs, which may cause "referred pain" to your flank or surrounding areas. All of this is invested by layers of muscle and skin, which can also become irritated to cause such pain.

Musculoskeletal and trauma causes

  • Rib fracture: If you have recently taken a direct blow to the side or been in an accident or fall, you may have broken a rib around your flank.
  • Intraabdominal injury: Taking direct blows to the abdomen or flank can lead to damage of internal organs, such as the kidney or spleen.
  • Hematoma: Less severe trauma can lead to a bleeding or a hematoma. This can lead to discomfort and discoloration around the area.
  • Muscle strain: Repetitive lifting utilizing your flank or back muscles can lead to soreness that may last a few days as the muscle repairs itself. Overuse of the muscle can lead to a strain, which may onset more suddenly and be more painful.

Kidney and urinary causes

  • Kidney stones: Kidney stones can block the urine leaving the kidney and cause painful urination.
  • Mass lesions of the kidney: Cysts or cancers of the kidney or surrounding organs can cause compression and slow onset of pain.
  • Blockage of blood flow: In older individuals, blood flow to the kidney may be blocked causing pain.
  • Other inflammatory conditions of the kidney

Infectious causes

  • Infection of the kidney: Each kidney is attached to the bladder via a tube called the ureter. It is possible to develop an infection in the kidney similar to how one can get a "UTI," or urinary tract infection.
  • Pneumonia or lung infection: The lungs extend further South than you might think, and pneumonia can cause pain that mimics that of flank pain (alongside cough and fever).
  • Skin infection: Localized skin infection or shingles may cause burning and redness in the area.

Other causes

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Inflammation or infection of the colon
  • Inflammation or infection of the liver
  • Bowel obstruction and constipation

Top 10 Side Pain Causes

  1. 1.Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis)

    Pyelonephritis is the medical term for a kidney infection. This can arise as a result of a bladder infection that travels upstream. A kidney infection is usually bacterial in nature, and can cause pain on the side of the stomach, high fever, nausea, and blood in the urine.

    You should visit your ER. Pyelonephritis is caused by bacteria and, therefore, needs to be treated with prescription antibiotics.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, pelvis pain, back pain, fever
    Symptoms that never occur with kidney infection (pyelonephritis):
    mid back pain from an injury
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  2. 2.Abdominal Aortic Aneurism

    The aorta is the main blood vessel to everything below the neck. Weaknesses can happen within the wall of the aorta, which balloons out due to the pressure of the blood pushing against it.

    Seek immediate medical care at an ER. An aortic aneurysm may rupture at any time, which is a life-threatening condition due to blood loss. Radiologic imaging will be performed by a medical professional to assess the size of the aneurism and plan the surgical intervention. A non-ruptured abdominal aortic aneurism must be treated surgically as soon as possible.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, side pain, general abdominal pain, abdominal bump, abdominal pain that shoots to the back
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  3. 3.Bladder Cancer

    The bladder is a hollow organ in your lower abdomen that stores urine. Bladder cancer, which occurs in the lining of the bladder, is the sixth most common type of cancer in the United States.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate your care with a cancer specialist (oncologist). Early bladder cancer is usually confined to the superficial lining, and treatment is for the most part easy and curative.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), constipation, pelvis pain, frequent urination, side pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Ovarian Torsion

    The twisting, or torsion, of the ovary around its surroundings. This may result in loss of blood to both the ovary and the fallopian tube. When diagnosed, this condition is considered an emergency and requires immediate surgery.

    You should go to the emergency room immediately. Diagnosis is made by ultrasound and surgery is required if the diagnosis is confirmed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea or vomiting, nausea, moderate abdominal pain, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps)
    Symptoms that never occur with ovarian torsion:
    diarrhea, pain below the ribs, mild abdominal pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  5. 5.Abdominal Aortic Aneurism (Aaa) Rupture

    The aorta is the major blood highway. Injuries to the aorta can cause life-threatening internal bleeding.

    Call 911 immediately for an ambulance. An aortic injury is a life-threatening event.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    being severely ill, nausea, severe abdominal pain, side pain, spontaneous back pain
    Symptoms that always occur with abdominal aortic aneurism (aaa) rupture:
    being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service

    Side Pain Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having side pain.

    Take a quiz
  6. 6.Iga Nephropathy

    Nephropathy is damage, disease, or other problems with the kidney. IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger's disease, is a kidney disorder in which antibodies called IgA build up in kidney tissue. This results in local inflammation that may over time hinder the kidney's ability to filter out waste, excess water, and electrolytes (salts) from the blood.

    You should visit your primary care physician. IgA nephropathy is treated with blood pressure medications, omega-3 fatty acids, immunosuppressants, and cholesterol-lowering medications (statins). In rare, progressed cases, dialysis or kidney transplant may be necessary.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    side pain, bilateral leg swelling, pink/blood-tinged urine, dark brown urine, groin pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Interstitial Nephritis

    The tissue of the kidneys can become inflamed for many different reasons, ranging from medications to infection to our own immune system

    You should go to your primary care physician(PCP) tomorrow for a sick visit.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, loss of appetite, joint pain, fever, side pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Alport Syndrome

    Alport syndrome is an inherited disorder that damages the blood vessels in the kidneys.

    You should go see your primary care doctor in the next 24 hours. Diagnosis is based on having the right symptoms, genetic testing, and doing blood tests to determine kidney function. Treatment is with medications (ACE inhibitors) and referred to a nephrologist for long term management.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    side pain, pink/blood-tinged urine, bright red (bloody) urine, swollen ankle, hearing loss
    Symptoms that never occur with alport syndrome:
    severe fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma

    Adrenocortical carcinoma is an aggressive cancer of the adrenal glands. The cancer has often invaded nearby tissues or metastasized to distant organs at the time of diagnosis, and the overall 5-year survival rate is only 20-35%.

    You should visit your primary care physician within the next 24 hours. Surgical excision is curative; however, a large percentage of patients are not surgical candidates.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, loss of appetite, weight gain, irritability
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Adrenal Cortical Adenoma

    This is a benign non-cancerous growth (tumor) of the outside layer of the adrenal gland, called the adrenal cortex. An adenoma can secrete high levels of hormones cortisol, aldosterone, and estrogens or androgens. This can cause a variety of symptoms such as weight gain, easy bruising, and emotional changes (irritability, restlessness, depression).

    You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate care with a specialist. This condition is treated with surgery and medication to control symptoms.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, side pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Side Pain Treatments and Relief

Side pain symptoms are not commonly encountered by patients and can be unnerving. In most scenarios, you will need to see a medical professional for testing to rule out serious conditions. However, if you think it is likely related to a minor traumatic injury or muscle strain, at-home side pain treatments can be tried first.

Professional treatments

  • Urine and blood chemistry testing: A doctor may order testing of your urine and blood to evaluate the cause of your pain and your kidney function.
  • Imaging: A doctor may order ultrasounds or CT scans to better evaluate your condition.
  • IV Fluids: These can help with dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Antibiotics: If your pain is caused by an infection, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat you. This may require a stay in the hospital for intravenous medications.
  • Surgery: Certain conditions or large kidney stones require surgery for effective management.

At-home treatments

  • Rest: Rest can help muscle soreness associated with overuse or minor trauma.
  • Pain Medication: Tylenol can help reduce the pain and discomfort. Avoid excessive use of ibuprofen and other NSAIDS that can worsen kidney function.
  • Ice or Heat: A heat pack, ice-pack or cool washcloth can help with the discomfort associated with minor trauma or overuse injury.
  • Stretching : Performing side bends and other stretches of the side muscles can be beneficial as you recover.

You should seek help without delay if you have:

  • Serious trauma
  • Fever
  • Decrease in urine output or change in urine coloration
  • Pain with urination
  • A history of kidney disease or immunocompromised condition

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Side Pain

  • Q.How long has your side been hurting?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Q.Do you feel pain when you urinate?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our side pain symptom checker.

Take a quiz

Side Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced side pain have also experienced:

    • 4% Nausea
    • 3% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
    • 3% Rib Pain
  • People who have experienced side pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 43% Less Than a Day
    • 28% Less Than a Week
    • 14% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced side pain were most often matched with:

    • 21% Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis)
    • 7% Bladder Cancer
    • 4% Abdominal Aortic Aneurism

People Who Have Experienced Side Pain Also Read

Show more Show less

    Side Pain Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having side pain.

    Take a quiz