What Is Flank Pain? Common Causes You Must Know

Flank pain is a medical condition involving the flank or lower back, or both. There is a wide range of possible causes. The most common cause is inflammation of the inner lining of the abdominal cavity (peritonitis) associated with an infection in the colon or appendix. Other causes include kidney stones, ovarian cysts, and cancer, although these are rare and require further evaluation.

Where Is The Flank Area Located?

The flank area is located on the right side of your body if you’re facing forward and on the left if you’re lying down. You can locate it by placing your hand on your lower right side below the rib cage and then moving it upward toward your waist until you feel a slight bulge; that’s your flank area.

Flank Pain Treatments

The pain may be constant or sporadic, sharp, or dull. It may start suddenly and then subside, or it may gradually increase until it becomes very intense. The pain may radiate outward from the belly button to other parts of your abdomen, depending on what’s causing it.

Symptoms of Flank pain

The symptoms are:

  • Kidney stones and other kidney problems
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix)
  • Inflamed liver or gallbladder
  • Hemorrhoids (piles)’
  • Pain in the flank area (the sides of your lower abdomen)
  • Pain that spreads to your groin or testicles (in men) or vulva (in women)
  • Pain in your back and buttocks, which may radiate down one or both legs

Diagnosis of Flank pain

A doctor will ask about your pain, including when it started and how long it lasts.

Physical examination. Your doctor will examine you to see what part of your body is causing the pain. He or she may feel on your back and lower abdomen for tender areas. The doctor might also press on your back or abdomen to see if that makes the pain worse.

Imaging studies. Imaging studies such as ultrasound, x-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans can help doctors find out what’s causing your pain.

Treatment of Flank pain

Treatment depends on the cause of your flank pain. If you have a kidney stone or a urinary tract infection, for example, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or pain medication to treat these conditions. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat the underlying cause of your flank pain.

Some people find that massage therapy helps relieve their flank pain.

Other treatments include:

🔹Heat and cold packs: These can help reduce inflammation and ease muscle spasms in your back and abdomen.

🔹Acupuncture: This ancient Chinese practice uses fine needles inserted into various parts of the body to relieve pain by stimulating specific points on the body’s meridians (energy channels).

Prevention of Flank pain

Flank pain is a common problem in horses. It can occur as a result of many different causes, and the pain may be intermittent or chronic.

Flank pain can be caused by trauma, infection, and irritation of the abdominal lining. The most common cause, however, is colic.

The following are five ways to prevent flank pain:

🔹Feed a high-quality diet that meets all nutrient requirements

🔹Provide appropriate amounts of water and salt to meet your horse’s needs

🔹Avoid overfeeding concentrates or grains before exercise

🔹 Take care not to overwork your horse on consecutive days by alternating heavy exercise days with light exercise days

🔹Give your horse plenty of time to recover from strenuous exercise

Final words

The flank pain is a classic symptom of kidney stones, one that presents itself as localized pain in the lower right side of the abdomen. By the time it resolves itself after days or weeks, the patient has probably seen several primary care physicians, a few urologists, and maybe had an abdominal CT scan or an ultrasound of the kidneys, without ever receiving treatment. 

If you have encountered flank pain that doesn’t go away after a few days, you should know that this is a medical emergency.

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