Each year, millions of people visit their doctor for kidney pain. On top of this, approximately 15 percent of adults in the United States experience recurring, chronic kidney pain. In some cases, occasional kidney pain isn’t anything to be concerned about because it can be treated right away. But if your kidney pain is worse lying down, it could be a sign of something more serious.
So, why is your kidney pain worse lying down? Below, we break down 4 conditions that could be the cause behind this worsening kidney pain. Read on to learn more about kidney pain and to know when it’s time to seek medical advice. With the right information and support, your kidneys don’t have to be a pain in your back—figuratively or literally.
1. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
One of the most common causes to explain kidney pain that’s worse lying down would be a urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs are a common bacterial infection—so common, in fact, that more than half of all women in the United States will get one at some point in their lives. Note, though, that UTIs can happen to anybody, regardless of gender.
A urinary tract infection can cause burning with urination, frequent trips to the restroom, and pain that radiates through the bladder and up the back. UTIs that go untreated can travel through the body and cause a kidney infection (pyelonephritis). Pyelonephritis is a type of UTI but it specifically refers to the kidneys, which are impacted by the infection.
When the kidneys become infected, the pain often intensifies. Kidney infections can also come with a whole range of other symptoms. In addition to the standard UTI symptoms, kidney infections might cause:
- Blood in your urine
- Kidney pain
This pain is sometimes confused with back pain because of where the kidneys are located. With kidney pain, though, the pain is usually in the upper back, below the rib cage, and might feel deeper than typical back aches. Additionally, the kidney pain might get worse when lying down because of the pressure put on the infected kidneys.
The symptoms of UTIs and kidney infections typically only get better with antibiotics. When left untreated, a kidney infection could lead to:
- High blood pressure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Sepsis (blood poisoning)
If you have the symptoms of a UTI or pyelonephritis as well as kidney pain that gets worse when lying down, be sure to seek medical advice on the next steps you can take to get well again.
2. Kidney Stones
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) defines kidney stones as a small mass that can solidify in either or both kidneys. This occurs when specific minerals from the urine, such as calcium and oxalate, build up in your system. These stones can sometimes get as big as a golf ball, though they are typically much smaller. Sometimes, you might even have a kidney stone and pass it without knowing it.
Many times, though, kidney stones are the cause of intense, sharp kidney pain. This is because the stone is trying to travel through the urinary tract but can get lodged, causing a roadblock that prevents urine from flowing through.
This kidney pain can get worse when lying down, depending on where the stone is stuck. The pain sometimes causes nausea and vomiting. You may also experience blood in your urine, painful urination, and even fevers.
Kidney stones can be treated in a few different ways. While many times the kidney stones can pass on their own, the pain can be really intense. If you have kidney stones and you are unable to find relief in any position, including lying down, your doctor might recommend pain medication until the stone passes. For bigger stones, a medical procedure could be necessary to break the stone up into smaller pieces so that it passes easier and less painfully.
3. Polycystic Kidney Disease
Kidney pain that is worse lying down can also be a sign of polycystic kidney disease (PKD). This disorder is characterized by the fluid-filled cysts that develop in the kidneys. PKD is a chronic condition that can cause long-term pain in some individuals.
The cysts can grow so large that they change the shape of the kidneys or make them larger than they should be. This can put pressure on the kidneys and surrounding areas. As a result, you might feel more pain when lying down.
PKD is not only painful but it can cause other concerning health conditions, such as high blood pressure. It can also greatly impact the kidneys’ function and can even lead to kidney failure. Polycystic kidney disease doesn’t have a cure but many of the symptoms can be treated with the right exercise, diet, and medication plan.
4. Kidney Cancer
Lastly, it’s important to recognize that there’s always the possibility that when kidney pain is worse lying down, it could be something more dire, like kidney cancer. About 80 thousand people are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year in the United States. The symptoms of kidney cancer are quite similar to the ones the conditions listed above but can also include:
- Lump that you can feel
- Weight loss
Know that if you feel pain in your kidneys, there is a low chance that it is something life-threatening like cancer. But a low chance doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get medical advice as soon as possible. Regardless of the reason behind your kidney pain, once you start feeling symptoms, reach out to a trusted healthcare professional so that they can guide you on the best treatment options.
What To Do When Kidney Pain Is Worse Lying Down
Since there are so many unknowns when it comes to kidney pain, it’s best to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms. They might need to run some tests and do some imaging in order to figure out exactly why your kidney pain gets worse lying down. After a diagnosis, your care team can find the best treatment plan for you. Things like exercising, taking medication, and drinking a lot of fluids are all ways to manage kidney-related conditions.
But you might find it challenging to cope with this kidney pain as you wait on a treatment plan. This is where finding support from other people who understand chronic pain can be extremely beneficial. You’d be surprised as to how many others are also struggling with this issue.
Whether you can’t find relief from kidney pain, back aches, or other chronic conditions, you are not on your own in this. Become part of the Pain Resource Community for support, strength, and solidarity.