Read below about 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.

This symptom can also be referred to as:
Flank pain

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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

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Side Pain

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced side pain. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  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.

    Course of antibiotics for 7-14 days, but symptoms should begin to improve after 48 hours.

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

    A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms in the kidney from substances in the urine. Most kidney stones pass out of the body without help from a doctor. But sometimes a stone will not go away. It may get stuck in the urinary tract, block the flow of urine and cause great pain.

    The prognosis for a kidney stone is good, as it is not a chronic condition. Once the stone has passed, the pain will go away. However, if you have had a kidney stone, you have about a 1 in 2 chance of getting another one in five to seven years. This can be prevented by: 1. Drinking more than 2 liters (2.11 quarts) of water a day. 2. Eating a healthy diet with foods rich in calcium such as milk and other dairy products, peas and beans, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and bony fish like sardines and salmon. 3. Avoiding use of lots of salt in cooking. 4. Eating more vegetables, as they help make urine less acidic.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal or flank pain, nausea, abdominal pain that comes and goes, diarrhea, pelvis pain
    Symptoms that always occur with kidney stone:
    abdominal or flank pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

    Side Pain Checker

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    Side Pain Quiz
  3. 3.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.

    Patients are generally discharged home within 24 hours of surgery in uncomplicated cases. The patient follows up with the surgeon 1 week after surgery, and additional follow-up is regulated as needed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea or vomiting, nausea, moderate abdominal pain, loss of appetite
    Symptoms that never occur with ovarian torsion:
    diarrhea, pain below the ribs, mild abdominal pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  4. 4.Normal Abdominal Pain

    The abdomen extends from below the chest to the groin. Often it is referred to as the stomach; however, the abdomen includes more organs than just the stomach like the pancreas & liver. Abdominal pain is not stomach-specific and may be radiating from another organ.

    Generally abdominal pain resolves within a few days.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), vaginal discharge, fever, nausea
    Symptoms that always occur with normal abdominal pain:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache)
    Symptoms that never occur with normal abdominal pain:
    fever, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, severe abdominal pain, unintentional weight loss, vaginal discharge, rectal bleeding
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  5. 5.Acute Pancreatitis

    Acute pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, which creates and releases insulin and glucagon to keep the sugar levels in your blood stable. It also creates the enzymes that digest your food in the small intestine. When these enzymes accidentally get activated in the pancreas, they digest the pancreas itself, causing pain and inflammation.

    Acute pancreatitis typically goes away after a few days with treatment. Untreated, it can be deadly

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    constant abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, being severely ill, severe abdominal pain, fever
    Symptoms that always occur with acute pancreatitis:
    constant abdominal pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

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

FAQs About Side Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about side pain.

Why do I have pain in the lower right side of my back?

Pain in the lower right portion of the back may be due to muscular strain particularly involving straightening the spine, lifting the leg, or sitting with poor posture (e.g. hunching over a desk while favoring one leg). It may also be a sign of a severe infection of the kidneys, though usually other symptoms like fatigue, aches, and intermittent chills and high fevers as well as cloudy urine are present.

What are the symptoms of trapped gas?

Trapped gas may cause symptoms of discomfort, bloating, and outright pain on compression of the abdomen by either clothes or by posture. The most telltale sign of symptoms of trapped gas is the alleviation of the symptoms with passage of the gas either through belching or flatulence.

What does pain in the spleen feel like?

The spleen is on the left side of the body just below the ribcage on the side toward the back. Pain in on the left side, near the back, at the base of the lungs, or near the front of the body is characteristic of spleen pain. It may be sharp or it may be a crampy sensation or a dull ache. Many processes can occur in the spleen such as bleeding, infection or damage from trauma, and they may cause different sensations.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Side Pain

  • Q.Have you noticed any changes in the color of your urine recently?
  • Q.Do you feel pain when you urinate?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.How would you explain the cause of the flank pain?

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

Side Pain Quiz

Side Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced side pain have also experienced:

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

    • 38% Less Than a Day
    • 30% Less Than a Week
    • 16% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced side pain were most often matched with:

    • 33% Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis)
    • 33% Kidney Stone
    • 33% Ovarian Torsion
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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

Side Pain Quiz