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Understanding Flank Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Home > Blogs > Understanding Flank Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Understanding Flank Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Renal Sciences | by Dr. Amlan Chakraborty | Published on 29/02/2024


Have you experienced problems while passing stools or noticed any changes in urine recently? If yes, then you should book your appointment at The Calcutta Medical Research Institute in Kolkata. It is because these signs indicate the condition known as flank pain. Flank pain is a condition determined by discomfort in the area under the rib cage on either side of the lower back and is the representation of several underlying medical conditions. From kidney problems to musculoskeletal issues, comprehending the diverse causes, identifying the symptoms, proper diagnosis, and appropriate treatment options are vital to manage and relieve flank pain. If you want to gain more information on this, then make sure to read this blog, it involves a discussion on its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. However, kindly note that this blog is for informative purposes only and we do not construe consultation with a healthcare professional in any way. If you are facing any problem or issue regarding this, please make sure to visit the best nephrologist doctor in Kolkata for better guidance and treatment.

What is flank pain?

Flank pain occurs on one side of the body between the lower ribs and the pelvis stemming from different causes. Some primary triggers for flank pain are kidney stones, urinary tract infections, muscle strains, and digestive problems. Proper diagnosis plays an important role in efficient treatment. If you experience constant or severe flank pain, then you must get in touch with a healthcare expert. With timely interference, it is easy to reduce distress and deal with underlying health conditions, ensuring optimum well-being and quality of life.

What are the symptoms of flank pain?

Every human body is different so when it comes to a condition like flank pain indicating certain underlying health issues it becomes complex to identify the symptoms. Hence, here are some common flank pain symptoms that can help identify the problem:

  • Dull ache or sharp stabbing pain in the flank region.
  • Pain may radiate to the abdomen, groin, or lower back.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Fever and chills (indicative of infection).
  • Changes in urinary habits, such as increased frequency, urgency, or blood in urine.
  • Difficulty passing urine or stool.

What are flank pain causes?

Healthcare experts have identified certain causes that are illustrated below for better comprehension of flank pain:

  • Kidney Stones: Solid mineral deposit production in the kidneys leads to agonizing flank pain as they shift through the urinary tract.
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Bacterial infections affecting the urinary system cause inflammation and pain in the flank area.
  • Kidney Infections (Nephritis): Kidney tissue inflammation due to infection or autoimmune conditions leads to flank pain.
  • Pancreatitis: Pancreas inflammation causes serious abdominal pain radiating to the back and flanks.
  • Peptic Ulcers: Stomach ulcers or duodenum results in flank pain, specifically if they perforate or bleed.
  • Muscle Strains: Overwork or injury to the muscles in the flank region leads to localized pain.
  • Spinal Problems: Conditions like herniated discs or spinal arthritis lead to flank pain because of nerve compression.
  • Ovarian Cysts: Fluid-filled sacs that grow on the ovaries cause flank pain, specifically if they break or become twisted.
  • Testicular Torsion: Twisting of the spermatic cord causing the testicle can result in serious testicular pain radiating to the flank.

How is flank pain diagnosed?

Healthcare experts often involve imaging tests and assessing the patient’s physical health to diagnose flank pain. Here are the steps involved in flank pain diagnosis:

  • Detailed history- It helps identify any predisposing factors or earlier flank pain episodes—physical evaluation to assess for tenderness, swelling, or anomalies in the flank area.
  • Imaging Studies: Ultrasound is involved in viewing the kidneys, urinary tract, and reproductive organs. On the other hand, a CT Scan or MRI offers comprehensive pictures of the abdominal and pelvic structures to assist in classifying kidney stones, tumors, or other abnormalities.
  • Laboratory Tests: Assessment of urine for signs of infection, blood, or abnormal components. It involves complete blood count (CBC), kidney function tests, and inflammatory markers.

What are the options for flank pain treatment? 

The treatment for the flank pain depends on the level of pain, certain options are recommended by the nephrologist doctor to help find relief from the problem. Here are some flank pain treatment options:

  • Pain Relief: Your nephrologist might recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen to reduce discomfort.
  • Hydration: Doctors recommend increased intake of fluid as it helps in flushing out kidney stones and prevent dehydration. 
  • Antibiotics: These are recommended when flank pain occurs due to a urinary tract or kidney infection.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Dietary changes help to minimize the risk of kidney stone production and encourage overall kidney health.
  • Lithotripsy: This non-invasive procedure helps in breaking down kidney stones with the use of shock waves.
  • Surgical Removal: It is large or hindering kidney stones or when conservative methods collapse.
  • Drainage: Catheter insertion or drainage tube to alleviate urinary obstruction caused by conditions like hydronephrosis.


Flank pain is a symptom that guarantees cautious evaluation to identify its underlying cause and start proper treatment. With a broad understanding of various causes, determining the related symptoms, initiating thorough diagnostic evaluations, and executing tailored treatment methods, healthcare experts can effectively manage flank pain and enhance patient outcomes. Timely medical intervention is important to reduce discomfort, avert complications, and foster well-being. If you are experiencing constant or serious flank pain, make sure to seek immediate prompt medical attention for proper evaluation and management.



Can kidney stones cause back pain?

Yes, kidney stones lead to severe back pain as they involve movement within the kidney or passing into the ureter, they usually result in serious back, sides, abdomen, or groin area discomfort.

Where does kidney pain happen?

Kidney pain usually happens in the back, below the ribs, and on one side of the body. The pain often is sharp, and dull and sometimes leads to the abdomen or groin.

Where are the flanks located?

The flanks are positioned on the body’s sides, between the pelvis and lower rib. They are located underneath the ribcage and expand toward the buttocks.