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Does kidney pain get better with rest?

Kidney pain, also known as renal pain, is a common symptom that can have many different causes. While rest may provide some relief in mild cases, severe or persistent kidney pain requires medical evaluation to determine the underlying cause.

What causes kidney pain?

Some common causes of kidney pain include:

  • Kidney stones – Hard deposits that form in the kidneys and can cause severe pain as they pass down the urinary tract
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI) – An infection of the bladder, ureters or kidneys that can cause a dull ache in the back or side
  • Pyelonephritis – A kidney infection that causes fever, chills, nausea and a sharp pain in one side
  • Glomerulonephritis – Inflammation of the glomeruli in the kidneys leading to pain and swelling
  • Polycystic kidney disease – Genetic disorder where cysts grow on the kidneys and enlarge over time
  • Blood clots in the kidneys – Can obstruct blood flow and damage tissue, causing severe flank pain

Kidney pain can also result from injury, certain medications, autoimmune diseases, and advanced kidney disease. The location, severity and accompanying symptoms can help identify the cause.

Does rest help relieve kidney pain?

Getting adequate rest allows your body to conserve its energy for healing and recovery. This may help provide some relief in mild cases of kidney pain caused by temporary inflammation, simple kidney cysts or muscle strain in the back.

However, rest alone cannot cure most underlying kidney problems. Severe or persistent kidney pain usually requires prompt medical treatment. Some key points on rest and kidney pain:

  • Rest may help ease discomfort from mild kidney pain that results from dehydration or overexertion.
  • More severe pain caused by kidney stones, UTIs or kidney infections requires medication or surgical treatment.
  • Pain from serious conditions like cancer or autoimmune disease will continue progressing without specific treatment.
  • Simple fluid intake and rest are not enough for chronic kidney diseases causing pain.
  • Complete bed rest for more than 1-2 days is not advisable as it can lead to muscle loss and weakness.

While a day or two of rest may provide temporary relief in some cases, kidney pain should not be ignored. Ongoing pain indicates an underlying problem that needs medical diagnosis and care.

When to see a doctor for kidney pain

You should make an appointment with your doctor if you experience:

  • Intense pain that does not improve with rest
  • Persistent ache in your lower back or abdominal area
  • Pain accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting or abnormal urine
  • Difficulty passing urine despite rest and hydration
  • Passing blood or cloudy urine
  • Pain that interferes with daily activities
  • Prior history of kidney disease, kidney stones or recurrent UTIs

Seeking prompt medical care can help diagnose the underlying cause and prevent complications like sepsis or kidney damage in severe cases. Based on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Imaging tests like CT scan, MRI or ultrasound
  • Cystoscopy to view the bladder and urethra
  • Biopsy of kidney tissue in some cases

Treatment will depend on the cause but may include oral or intravenous medications, surgery, dietary changes and regular follow-ups to monitor your kidney function.

Home remedies for temporary relief

While waiting to see your doctor, some simple home remedies may provide temporary relief from mild kidney pain:

  • Rest – Take it easy and avoid strenuous activity that worsens the pain.
  • Hydration – Drink plenty of fluids like water and herbal teas to flush your system.
  • Warm compress – Apply a heating pad or towel on your back or side.
  • Light massage – Gently massage your lower back and sides to alleviate muscle tension.
  • OTC painkillers – Use over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen for temporary pain relief.
  • Diet modification – Avoid foods that may irritate the kidneys like salty foods, caffeine and alcohol.

However, home treatments should not replace medical care for persistent kidney problems causing chronic pain.

When kidney pain requires emergency care

Seek emergency care if you experience:

  • Sudden, severe flank or abdominal pain
  • Inability to pass urine for more than 6-8 hours
  • Fever over 102°F (39°C) with kidney pain or chills
  • Blood in urine or cloudy, foul-smelling urine
  • Confusion, dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting that prevents fluid intake
  • Difficulty breathing with upper back/chest pain

These can indicate a serious condition like kidney infection, kidney stones blocking a ureter or rapid kidney failure. Prompt treatment is needed to relieve obstruction, control infection, and prevent permanent kidney damage or life-threatening complications.

How is the cause of kidney pain diagnosed?

To determine the cause of kidney pain, doctors use:

  • Medical history – Description of symptoms, family history of kidney disease, related health conditions and use of any medications.
  • Physical exam – Palpation and percussion over the kidneys to check for pain or masses.
  • Urinalysis – Microscopic examination of urine sample for blood, proteins, cell counts and crystals.
  • Blood tests – Check kidney function, electrolyte levels and signs of infection.
  • Imaging tests – Ultrasound, CT scan or MRI to visualize kidney structure and check for stones, cysts or tumors.
  • Urine culture – Identify bacteria causing a urinary tract infection.
  • Biopsy – Extract kidney tissue to test for disease in some chronic cases.

Based on your test results, your doctor can diagnose the likely cause of kidney pain and plan appropriate treatment.

Treatment options for kidney pain

Treatment depends on the underlying cause but may include:

  • Antibiotics for kidney infections or pyelonephritis
  • Surgery or lithotripsy to remove large kidney stones
  • Medications to manage glomerulonephritis or autoimmune kidney disorders
  • Dialysis for advanced kidney failure
  • Diet changes to prevent cyst growth in polycystic kidney disease
  • Diuretics, ACE inhibitors and blood pressure control for chronic kidney disease
  • Pain medications for symptom relief

Your nephrologist will determine the right course of treatment based on your specific condition, symptoms and examination findings.

When to follow up after kidney pain treatment

Make sure to follow up with your doctor if you experience:

  • Persistent pain, nausea, fever or other symptoms after treatment
  • Signs of new or worsening kidney problems
  • Side effects from medications prescribed for kidney pain
  • Passing of new kidney stones or fragments
  • Symptoms suggesting UTI or kidney infection recurrence

Based on your progress after treatment, your doctor may:

  • Adjust your medication dosages
  • Order further imaging or urine tests
  • Refer you to a specialist like a urologist
  • Prescribe antibiotics for suspected infections
  • Recommend surgery or lithotripsy if stones persist

Ongoing follow-up care can help monitor your kidney health and prevent future complications.

Prevention of kidney pain

You can reduce your risk of certain kidney problems and pain episodes by:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids daily
  • Following a kidney-friendly diet low in salt, protein and potassium
  • Managing underlying conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Avoiding excessive use of NSAIDs like ibuprofen
  • Preventing UTIs by wiping front-to-back after using the toilet
  • Quitting smoking to improve kidney function
  • Maintaining a healthy weight to avoid obesity-related kidney disease

Your doctor or nephrologist can provide tailored advice on preventing recurrent kidney problems based on your specific health status and risks.

When to worry about kidney pain

You should be concerned about kidney pain if:

  • The pain persists for more than 1-2 days despite rest and painkillers
  • You have a history of previous kidney problems
  • You have other symptoms like fever, nausea, changes in urine output
  • You have an underlying condition that increases kidney disease risk
  • The pain interferes with your daily activities
  • Home remedies and OTC medications provide little relief

Severe, recurrent or persistent kidney pain should always be evaluated promptly by a doctor. Early treatment can help resolve the underlying cause and prevent permanent damage in conditions like chronic kidney disease, infections or cancer.


In summary, mild kidney pain may temporarily improve with rest and hydration. However, severe or recurrent pain usually indicates an underlying kidney problem needing prompt medical care. Do not hesitate to see a doctor for persistent pain to help diagnose and treat the cause. With appropriate treatment guided by your nephrologist or urologist, most kidney conditions causing pain can be effectively managed.