Conditions

Right or Left Flank Plain? Here Are the Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & How to Get Rid

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Suffering from either right or left flank pain – that sensation of discomfort, distress or agony in the part of the body below the rib just above the ilium.

Most people young or old, are likely to experience flank pain at least ones. The pain is often localized and can occur on either right or left side.

Here is all you need to know about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and how to get rid and relieve the pain.

What is flank pain?

flank pain

What is a flank pain you ask?

In human, the flank is the area between the lower ribs and your hips bone on the side of the torso. The pain will often range from mild to severe depending on what the underlying cause is.

Well, flank pain refers to the discomfort felt in your abdomen or back and sides.  The pain develops in the area below the ribs and above the pelvis. In most people, the pain is likely to be worse on one side than on the other.

In some people, flank pain can be a sign of a kidney problem. However, since many organs are around your flank, there are other causes that might lead to the pain.

The pain is most likely to be a sign of a kidney problem if it is accompanied by the following symptoms:

The character of the pain is often very helpful in determining the cause. The characteristics to look out for are: local or referred pain, acute or chronic or recurrent, duration of the pain and the degree of severity.

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What causes flank pain?

lower right flank pain

The cause of flank pain will often vary from serious to a minor cause. Doctor’s health press notes that the causes are usually short-lived.

If the pain persists, it can be a clear sign of something serious that may need to be attended to as soon as possible.

Some of the most common causes of flank pain will include the following:

1. UTI

UTI is said to be a major cause of flank pain. UTI is a bacterial infection that affects the kidneys, bladder, urethra, and ureters. When this is what is causing the pain, you are likely to notice the following symptom:

  • Frequent urination
  • Pain while urinating
  • Fever

Antibiotics are often used to treat urinary tract infections. Severe or recurrent cases should be referred to a urologist.

2. Muscle strain

Muscle strain is a possible cause of flank pain that develops on one or both side of the body. Though harmless, it can worsen and become debilitating if left untreated.

A muscle strain occurs when you abruptly stretch the muscles in your abdomen. This is common when exercising, lifting heavy objects or throwing things.

Flank pain caused by a muscle strain can vary from mild to extreme ache and will often worsen during physical activities.

Treatment involves compressing the affected area with an elastic bandage to reduce movements which helps relieve inflammation and pain.

3. Kidney stones

Kidney stones are known to cause sudden and severe flank pain that often come in waves. The pain may radiate through the groin as the stones travel through the urinary tract.

With kidney stones you are likely to notice:

  • Blood in your urine
  • Vomiting
  • Pain while urinating

OTC and prescribed pain medication may be used to ease the pain.  It is recommended you drink plenty of water to help pass the stones down your system fast.

4. Enlarged spleen

Also called splenomegaly, an enlarged spleen can result from a number of conditions which include liver disease, infection or cancer.

An enlarged spleen will often cause no symptoms when it does, however, the symptoms will include pain in the left upper abdomen that may spread to the left shoulder in some cases.

5. Obstructive uropathy

This is a structural or functional hindrance of normal urine flow. This may cause urine to back up and injure one or both the kidneys thus causing pain.

6. Renal cancer

Kidney or renal cancer is a condition in which the kidney cell become cancerous thus grows out of control forming a tumor.

The symptoms will often appear as the tumor continues to grow. Common symptoms according to WebMD may include:

  • Blood in urine
  • Lump in your side
  • Pain in your side that won’t go away
  • Weight loss among others

7. Appendicitis

This is a serious condition in which the appendix becomes painful and inflamed. Typically, appendicitis includes pain starting centrally before localizing to the right iliac fossa.

8. Arthritis

Arthritis is a medical condition that causes painful inflammation and stiffness of joints.

Right side flank pain

It is common for some people to have right sided flank pain. Others will, however, develop the pain on the left side.

The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that right-sided flank pain may result from direct trauma, problems with the abdominal organs and from lots of other medical conditions.

The pain will often range from mild to severe depending on what the underlying cause is.

Right-sided flank pain is likely to be as a result of the following conditions:

1. Polycystic kidney disease

Polycystic kidney disease is also a possible cause of flank pain on your right side. Mayo clinic describes this condition as one in which clusters of cysts form inside the kidney.

When polycystic kidney disease is the cause of the pain, it is likely to be accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Frequent urination
  • Kidney stones and
  • UTI among others

2. Side stitch

Right side flank pain is also likely to be caused by exercise-related transient abdominal pain also called side stitch, this is common in athletes.

Sports injury bulletin notes that close to 70% of side stitch occurs on the right side of the abdomen.

Side stitch occurs when the ligaments that attach the liver to the diaphragm becomes damaged or stitched.

The pain is often felt just below the ribs but in some people, it can also be felt at the tip of the shoulder blade.

3. Adrenal gland tumor

Though rare, adrenal gland tumor is common in people over 45years. The tumors are common in women than they are in men.

Adrenal gland tumor is likely to be associated with the following symptoms:

  • Sudden or unexplained weight loss
  • Increased hair growth
  • Abdominal pain
  • Flank pain
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Nervousness and anxiety among others

Left flank pain that that comes and goes

Left flank pain that comes and goes like right pain can have a variety of causes.

The pain is often a sign of a kidney problem but can also be caused by other conditions such as problems with your tissues and structures.

Apart from the causes listed above, left flank pain is likely to be caused by the following conditions:

1. Pyelonephritis

According to the National Institute of Diabetes And Digestive And Kidney Diseases, Pyelonephritis or kidney infection is most commonly caused by bacteria that spread from the bladder to the kidney.

Some of the symptoms associated with this condition include:

  • Back, and flank pain
  • Increased urge to urinate
  • Pain while urinating
  • Blood in urine
  • Fever, nausea, and vomiting

Pyelonephritis can cause serious complications if not treated in time. In some cases, the infection can spread to the bloodstream causing life-threating condition – sepsis.

2 shingles

According to Mayo Clinic, although shingles can manifest anywhere on your body, it often appears as a band of blisters that wraps around one side of the torso, from the middle of the back o the sternum.

Shingles is a skin condition marked by a skin rash or blisters. It is caused by varicella-zoster virus, the same virus known to cause chicken pox.

3. Bruised left ribs

Left flank pain can also result from bruised ribs. Medline Plus notes that rib cage pain caused by fractured or bruised rib is a major cause of the pain. When this is the causes, symptoms are likely to include:

  • Tenderness of the affected rib
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Trunk muscle spasms and
  • Pain associated with deep breathing

In case of a left-sided rib injury, you need to be carefully evaluated by a professional health care provider for a possible spleen and lung damage. Your doctor may need an x-ray to check for a bruised or collapsed lung.

In treating rib cage injuries, a simple rest and immobilization can relieve the pain and speed up the healing process. Other treatment option may include:

  • Cold laser therapy and
  • Kinesio taping techniques

Bilateral flank pain

Apart from occurring on either the right or left side, some people may complain of bilateral flank pain- this means that the pain occurs on both sides of the abdomen that is on both the right and the left side.

bilateral flank pain

Bilateral flank pain in common in people with a family history of kidney disease. Polycystic kidney disease is often time the main cause of this type of pain. It is a manifestation of a group of inherited disorders that results in renal cyst development.

When treating bilateral flank pain, therapy is used to minimize the symptoms and slow the rate of progression of renal disease. Treatment options for bilateral flank pain include but not limited to:

  • Bed rest
  • Hydration and
  • Use of Analgesics (painkillers)

There are lots of things you can do to prevent or minimize the risk of having flank pain. Mayo Clinic recommends you do the following:

  • Staying hydrated by drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day
  • Cutting down on alcohol consumption
  • Increasing your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Doing regular exercises

Flank pain treatment

Proper flank pain treatment starts with the diagnosis of what the actual cause of the pain is. During a medical diagnosis, your doctor may use either a blood test or an imaging test. These tests can real problems with an organ, tissue or a muscle.

Treatment option used will then vary depending on what the underlying cause is. Common treatment option may include:

1. Rest for minor pain

Mayo Clinic notes that rest is the primary treatment for any form of flank pain. They add that minor pain will typically resolve with a combination of rest and physical therapy.

In other cases, your doctor may prescribe specific exercises you can do to relieve the pain.

2. Treating flank pain caused by inflammation

Here, the treatment prescribed will vary depending on what the cause of the inflammation is. Antibiotics are used in cases of kidney infections.

Your doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatories to help reduce the inflammation.

When the inflammation is caused by a spinal problem, surgery may be required.

3. Painkillers

In cases where kidney stones are the cause of the flank pain, your doctor may recommend you take pain medication and lots of fluids to speed up the passing of kidney stone. No surgery is required in cases of kidney stones.

How to get rid of the flank pain

At home, there also some simple ways you can use to soothe and get rid of flank pain. Here is what you need to do:

4. Drink plenty of water

Staying hydrated is the best way to get rid of flan pain caused by kidney stones.

Water helps wash away bacteria and dead tissues from your kidney. This ensures a continuous flow of fluid in your kidney and prevents bacteria from growing and spreading.

5. Applying a heat compress

Holding a hot pad over your painful flank can be a great a way of reliving the pain.

It is said that heat improves blood flow and reduces nerve sensation hence reducing pain. This can be particularly helpful when the pain is caused by a muscle spasm.

6. Cranberry juice

When the pain is caused by UTI or a kidney infection, the best way to get rid of it is by regularly drinking cranberry juice.

Cranberry juice prevents bacteria from multiplying. For those with kidney stones, do not use this remedy if you have oxalate stones as it contains significant amounts of vitamin C.

Sources:

  1. What causes flank plain? https://www.healthline.com/symptom/flank-pain
  2. 3 most common causes of flank pain: https://share.upmc.com/2016/01/3-most-common-causes-of-flank-pain/
  3. What to do about flank pain: https://www.doctorshealthpress.com/pain-articles/what-to-do-about-flank-pain/
  4. What is flank pain? https://www.everydayhealth.com/specialists/urology/wessells/qa/what-is-flank-pain/index.aspx
  5. Right flank pain, meaning, signs and symptoms: https://www.healthhype.com/right-flank-pain-meaning-signs-or-no-symptoms-and-causes.html

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