Your Kidney’s A Pain in the Back

Are you exacerbating a kidney condition?

By Kevin RR Williams

HEALTH A nagging backache leads you to take Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). Without immediate relief, you up the dosage—repeatedly. Unable to dull the pain makes you irascible so you light a cigarette to calm your nerves. This dries your throat so you grab a sugary soda, which happens to go well with a large bag of barbeque potato chips. But that pain won’t go away. So you visit the doctor and he takes a CT scan with contrast.


After reviewing the results, your primary physician refers you to a nephrologist. Kidneys make urine, so when the kidneys are failing, urination may change. How?

  • Do you have to get up at night to urinate?
  • Is your urine foamy or bubbly?
  • Has the volume of your urine become pale and in greater volume?
  • Do you have dark-colored urine less often, or in smaller amounts than usual?
  • Does your urine contain blood?
  • Do you feel pressure or have difficulty urinating?

Because kidneys are located on the sides of the lower back, pain there can be mistaken for muscle spasms. Astute physicians probe further during their examination.

Kidney Cross Section

Normally functioning as a filter, failing kidneys don’t remove extra fluid, which can swell face, legs, ankles, feet and hands. Patients’ kidneys sop working properly in stage 4. Thus losing ability to excreet excess fluid from the body. This can lead to retention of fluid and sodium. Healthy kidneys make a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO), which signals your body to make oxygen-carrying red blood cells. As the kidneys fail, your muscles and brain tire rapidly. This is anemia, which can also cause you to feel cold, lead to dizziness and memory problems. A build-up of wastes in the blood (called uremia) can cause food to taste differently well as bad breath. This build-up can also cause nausea and vomiting as your body attempts to expel toxins.


By now you naturally have questions in response to your doctor? At the very least, “What causes kidney problems?” The answer may sound familiar.

  • Too many NSAID pain relievers
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Too much sugar
  • Overabundance of sodium
  • Contrast dies sometimes used in CD scans


It should seem obvious now. Protecting your kidneys involves:

  • Eating a diet low in fat and salt
  • Exercising most days of the week
  • Having regular check-ups with your doctor
  • Avoiding tobacco
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Drinking sufficient water

Oh, and about that original back problem, it could be due to kidneys retaining water in response to a lack of sufficient intake. So drink more water—not coffee or colas. There are many types of kidney disorders—from kidney stones to cancer. Kidneys are resilient organs; take care of them and they will serve you well for a long time. If you have any concerns about possible kidney problems, contact your primary physician or a nephrologist, which specializes in kidney disorders to remain A Bit More Healthy.

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Tags: anatomy, causes, nephrology, oncology, symptoms, urology

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