Flank Pain: Causes and Treatments (All You Need to Know)

Flank pain is one of the most discomforting types of pain, typically affecting the abdomen, lower back, or sides. While there are many potential causes of unexplained flank pain, UTIs are one of the most common. If you are being affected by unexplained flank pain as well as urinary incontinence, a urinary health concern may be the origin of these issues.  

Urinary issues can have many knock-on effects and can affect both mental health and physical health, which is why at TENA we want to help you recognise these concerns and seek the right treatment, as well as deal with any symptoms as effectively as possible.  

Read on to learn more about flank pain, its causes, and how to resolve it. 

What is flank pain?

Flank pain is a type of pain located in the abdomen, lower back and sides. Usually, this type of pain will be felt in the area of the body below the ribcage and above the pelvis, near the sides of the torso, however it can also be felt outside this area. 

Flank pain is common, and most people will be affected by this kind of pain at some point, but it’s usually a short-lived symptom that doesn’t cause lasting health issues. 

However, if you notice sustained or severe flank pain, this may be a sign of a more serious underlying health issue that needs to be addressed. Quite often, a UTI is the cause of unexplained flank pain, but there are other causes too, which we will look at in more depth below. 

Flank pain causes

There are many potential causes of flank pain, and these can include: 

  • UTI 
  • Bladder infection 
  • Muscle spasm 
  • Dehydration 
  • Kidney infection 
  • Kidney stones 
  • Kidney abscess 
  • Shingles 
  • Muscle spasm 
  • Arthritis 
  • Tietze’s syndrome 
  • Spinal fracture 
  • Trapped nerve 
  • Disc disease 

Less common causes of flank pain could also be: 

  • Appendicitis 
  • Kidney disease 
  • Pneumonia 
  • Blockage of the urinary tract 
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease 

Flank pain symptoms

Symptoms of flank pain can vary depending on the underlying cause. You may experience a dull, achy type of pain or a sharper pain similar to cramp. The pain can come and go in waves or linger for longer periods. 

Symptoms associated with a kidney problem

If an underlying kidney issue is causing your flank pain, these symptoms may also be present and help with diagnosis. 

  • Fever 
  • Rash 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Dizziness 
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Blood in urine 
  • Painful urination 

If you are suffering from any of these symptoms alongside flank pain, we advise you to seek medical advice. 

Symptoms associated with dehydration

If you are suffering from any of the following symptoms alongside flank pain, you should also seek urgent medical assistance. 

  • Dizziness 
  • Extreme thirst 
  • Lack of sweat 
  • Dryness of mouth 
  • Elevated heart rate 
  • Fever 
  • Constipation 
  • Dark urine 
  • Decreased urination 

Dehydration can be serious, so if you are suffering from these issues along with flank pain the best course of action is to seek urgent assistance. 

Diagnosing flank pain causes

If you’re suffering with sustained and unexplained flank pain, a doctor’s visit will be required. They will ask you a series of questions to try and determine what may be causing your flank pain. 

They may ask you questions such as: 

  • Where you feel the pain 
  • When the pain started 
  • What the pain feels like (think of other types of pain you’ve felt in the past to help relate this) 
  • How often you’ve been feeling pain 
  • How long the pain lasts 
  • Any other symptoms you may have noticed 


Your doctor may order various tests to help with diagnosis. These could include: 

  • Blood tests 
  • Imaging tests (Ultrasounds/X-Rays) 
  • Cystoscopy 
  • Urinalysis 
  • Urine culture 
  • Abdominal CT scan 

Flank pain treatment

Flank pain treatment can vary depending on the underlying cause, but in most cases the first and easiest form of treatment is rest. 

Minor flank pain may be caused by muscle spasm, which can be resolved with rest and physical therapy. Your doctor may recommend specific exercises to relieve flank pain more quickly. 

Other forms of treatment will depend on any underlying cause and its severity. 

For example, kidney infections may require hospitalisation if they are very severe, while UTIs, if caught early, can be treated more easily with antibiotics. 

Other, more complex underlying causes such as kidney stones, arthritis or spinal issues can require more specific, specialist treatments. 

Preventing flank pain

Instances of flank pain can be prevented or avoided by maintaining good healthy practices such as: 

  • Staying hydrated 
  • Eating a balanced and healthy diet 
  • Exercising regularly 
  • Limiting alcohol consumption 
  • Using protection if sexually active 

Flank pain can take time to resolve, and if you’re suffering from underlying issues such as a UTI or bladder infection, issues can persist until your treatment is complete. Make sure you protect yourself from any leaks or drips with our incontinence products for men and women. 
If you want to learn more, find out what causes urinary incontinence or get advice on how to deal with urine leaks in public.