Back pain is one of the top ailments that leads people to call their doctors. Pain in your upper back or abdomen and sides, also called flank pain or kidney pain has numerous causes.\nIf you have persistent pain, you should always consult your physician. However, flank pain most commonly results from one of three causes: urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney stones, and musculoskeletal problems like a muscle strain or pinched nerve.\nThe kidneys are your body’s filters. The waste from your kidneys travels out of your body through urine. One of the best ways to prevent common kidney problems is to drink plenty of water. This helps keep the filtering process running smoothly.\nUrinary Tract Infection (UTI)\nA urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused by bacteria that enters the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra.\nSymptoms of a UTI\nPain in your lower back or abdomen may be a sign of a lower UTI, such as an infection in the bladder. Pain in the upper back and kidney area may be a sign of an upper UTI.\nOther UTI symptoms include:\n\nA frequent urge to urinate\nBurning when you urinate\nBlood in the urine\nFever\n\nUrinary Tract Infection Treatment\nYour primary care doctor or an urgent care doctor can treat a UTI. You’ll be prescribed an antibiotic, and symptoms should clear up shortly after. For recurring or severe UTIs, your doctor may refer you to a urologist.\nKidney Stones\nKidney stones are crystals that form in your urine and build up in your kidneys. They cause severe pain.\nSymptoms of Kidney Stones\nKidney stones cause sudden, severe flank pain that can come in waves. The pain may also radiate down through the groin. The pain continues as the stone travels through the ureters, the bladder, and out the urethra if it’s small enough.\nYou may also experience:\n\nBlood in the urine\nNausea or vomiting\nPainful urination\n\nKidney Stones Treatment\nFor small stones, you can take pain medications and drink lots of water until the stone passes. Your doctor may also prescribe a medication to help you pass the stone if you have trouble passing it on your own.\nLarge stones that cannot fit through the urinary tract need to be removed by surgery or lithotripsy, a procedure that breaks apart large stones into small pieces that can pass.\nRELATED:\u00a0What Are Kidney Stones?\nMusculoskeletal Problems\nSometimes, flank pain can be traced to a musculoskeletal problem. This could be a muscle strain or tear from increased physical activity, a fall or other trauma, lifting something too heavy, or repetitive motion.\nMuscle-related pain will feel more like a dull ache and usually worsens with physical activity, pressure, or actions that use those muscles like sneezing or laughing.\nYou may also have flank pain from spinal arthritis or a pinched nerve.\nTo treat the pain at home, use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, and ice the area for about 20 minutes at a time every few hours. If the pain doesn’t go away, or you notice swelling or redness along your sides, call your doctor or visit an urgent care center.\nRELATED:\u00a0FAQs: Treating Musculoskeletal Pain Without Medication\nOther Causes of Flank Pain\nFlank pain can sometimes be caused by other, more serious conditions. These include:\n\nBladder or kidney cancer\nKidney disease\nDiverticulitis\nGallbladder disease\nAppendicitis\nBlockage in the urinary tract\n\nFlank pain can be tricky to diagnose and require a few different tests to pinpoint the problem. It’s always best to talk to your primary care doctor if you have unexplained pain that doesn’t go away. You should also call your doctor right away if you have signs of an infection, such as fever, fatigue, or body aches.\nVisit the UPMC Department of Urology to learn more about these conditions, which may result in flank pain or to schedule an appointment with one of our urologists.