If you have pain after exercising, you're likely to think it is related to your workout. But, it is easy to confuse kidney pain with back pain after exercising. Typically, you will feel pain and soreness due to the muscles in the back contracting and being worked.
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However, there are times when the pain may indicate a more serious condition. One difference is the type of pain. Back pain is often sharp and sudden after an injury, or achy after a workout, while kidney pain often comes in waves and may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever and pain during urination.
Read more: Can You Work Out with Back Pain?
Kidney Problems and Stones
Pain indicating kidney problems is usually felt in the lower back to the right and left portion of your spine. You may also feel pain above your hips. Many patients describe the pain as severe and occurring in waves. Delayed pain follows exercises such as side bends and front bends. When you feel this kind of pain, it's a sign you may have a kidney infection or another kidney-related condition, including kidney stones.
Although kidney stones often pass through the body on their own, large stones can require medical intervention. Other symptoms of kidney stones include nausea and vomiting, difficulty urinating, urine discoloration — pink, red or brown — and a persistent urge to urinate.
Read more: Kidney Symptoms: Flank and Back Pain
Back Muscle Injury
Muscle strain and back injury may be sustained during exercise when you overextend or overstretch the muscle — for example, while suddenly twisting your torso in sports such as basketball or football. Some exercise-related back pain may last only a few days while some may be chronic, recurring again and again or lingering for weeks or months. A muscle may be merely strained, but you may also tear a muscle by lifting very heavy weights or performing weightlifting exercises in poor form.
Rule Out Nerve Conditions
Back pain in the area of your kidneys can be felt when nerves in the area are pinched or compressed. When nerves are damaged or injured, you will feel pain, discomfort, numbness and tingling sensations. You may also experience limited range of motion or your lower back may be sore for several days.
The compression in the spine can impinge on the nerves, thereby triggering pain and discomfort. If left untreated, nerve compression that is severe or lasts for a long period of time can lead to permanent numbness and muscle weakness. Avoid any exercise that makes the back pain worse.
Signs of an Emergency
According to the Mayo Clinic, back pain can occasionally indicate a serious medical condition. See a doctor if your back pain is present even at rest, is accompanied by bowel or bladder issues or occurred immediately after trauma such as a fall.
Seek immediate medical attention if you feel numbness or weakness in one or both legs or experience pain moving down one leg below the knee. Also, seek care if you experience back pain together with flu-like symptoms.