What Does Having Kidney Pain In The Morning Mean?

Kidney pain can range from being annoying to completely debilitating. If you experience pain around your kidneys in the morning or any other time of day, it's important to know how to manage it and when to seek professional medical care. This will improve your quality of life and protect your overall health.

Here's what you should know about kidney pain and how to treat it.

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What is kidney pain?

Your kidneys are a pair of organs that remove waste and extra water (urine) from your blood. They're located on either side of your backbone, below your rib cage.

Kidney pain, also known as renal pain, is typically experienced in your back or under your ribs and can also occur on either side of your spine. It's also possible for kidney pain to spread from your back to other areas of your body, including your upper abdomen, groin, and/or your sides.

Because kidney pain usually occurs in your back, it can be difficult to determine if a backache is caused by your kidneys or an issue with your back muscles. Back pain caused by both muscle problems and kidney problems is commonly felt in your lower back.  Various tests can determine the cause of the pain, including imaging tests and labwork, in addition to a physical exam by your doctor.

Symptoms of kidney pain

The symptoms of kidney pain can vary from person to person. Common symptoms of kidney pain include:

  • Discomfort in your sides, abdomen, and/or under your rib cage

  • Pain that feels sharp, severe, or "stabbing" and comes in waves

  • Constant, dull aching pain in your back

  • Discomfort that spreads to your groin

  • Nausea and/or vomiting, particularly if your pain is caused by kidney stones

What are the causes of kidney pain in the morning?

Because your kidneys are connected to your ureters (the tubes that carry urine from your kidneys to your bladder) and your bladder, any problem with these areas can lead to discomfort or pain.

Common factors that could cause kidney pain in the morning include:

  • Kidney stones: These form from a buildup of minerals and compounds over time. Stones start small (around the size of a grain of sand) but can become much larger (some even larger than a pearl). While small stones can be extracted from your body naturally, larger stones can get stuck in your urinary tract and block urine from passing as it should. As a result, severe kidney pain can occur.

  • Kidney infection: Also known as pyelonephritis, this condition occurs when your kidneys become infected. When this happens, other symptoms are common, including fever, chills, back pain, nausea, and vomiting.

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI): This condition occurs when any part of your urinary system becomes infected, including your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. In most cases, UTIs affect your lower urinary tract, which includes your bladder and urethra.

  • Kidney cancer: The most common type is renal cell carcinoma. It typically develops in people in their 60s and 70s. It can cause symptoms such as blood in your urine, a lump on your side, and pain.

Treating morning kidney pain

If you experience kidney pain, you can take steps at home to alleviate your symptoms. These include:

  • Staying hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is critical in combating urinary tract infections. It's recommended that adults drink at least eight 8oz glasses of water a day, but more water may be necessary depending on your lifestyle and other health conditions.

  • Taking probiotics: Probiotics play an important role in promoting good, immune-boosting bacteria in your gut. They may also be effective at helping your kidneys to fight off infections.

  • Applying heat: Placing a heating pad directly on the location of your kidney pain, such as your back, for 20 minutes at a time can help alleviate discomfort.

  • Soaking in a warm bath: Taking a warm bath with Epsom salt can help you relax, reduce pain, and draw out toxins from your body.

  • Avoiding irritants: Limit your consumption of foods that could cause more irritation to your urinary tract, including alcohol and coffee.

  • Taking non-aspirin painkillers: Ibuprofen or other non-aspirin painkillers may help relieve your kidney pain without thinning your blood, leading to blood entering your urine. Speak with your doctor before starting these medications, as some can cause kidney irritation.

When to see a doctor

If home remedies, such as drinking more water and applying heat, don't resolve your kidney pain, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider immediately.

It's also important to seek professional medical care if your symptoms are severe, come on suddenly, your pain is accompanied by fever, fatigue, body aches, or you notice blood in your urine.

The sooner you are seen by your healthcare provider, the sooner you can alleviate your pain and, most importantly, prevent your infection or other health concerns from leading to more complicated health issues.

The lowdown

Kidney pain most commonly occurs on either side of your spine below your rib cage but can also spread to your sides, groin, and upper abdomen. Because your kidneys are directly connected to other areas of your urinary tract system, including your ureters and bladder, an infection in any of these areas can lead to kidney discomfort.

If you experience kidney pain, there are proactive steps you can take at home to relieve your symptoms and restore your kidneys to health, including drinking more water, applying heat, and avoiding irritants, such as coffee.

However, if your symptoms don't go away, are severe, or are accompanied by fever, body aches, and fatigue, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider immediately.

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