Most adults face back pain, at least once in their lives. However, when the pain is located in a flank, like the right side of back and it is also accompanied by great discomfort, it can be a serious medical problem. One of the most encountered situations is the one of renal pain, in which the discomfort is accompanied by sharp or acute pangs. This occur in the right side of back, somewhere between the last rib and the upper part of the buttock. Sometimes, this pain can reach as far as the groin or abdominal area.

pain in the right side of back

There is another aspect to take into consideration. There are many medical conditions that can mimic pain in the right side of back, including muscle strains, spine problems or Herpes Zoster. The same goes for gynecological problems and it is important to understand that, until the main problem is treated, the pain in the right side of back will not go away. On the other hand, the intensity of the pain can suggest whether this is a medical emergency or not. In case of a renal colic, the pain felt by the elimination of kidney stones is sharp and severe, imposing emergency treatment.Even though in most cases the right side back pain is caused by simple problems such as muscle strains, you have to keep in mind that there is also such a thing as referred pain. Suffering organs can send pain signals along nerves and sometimes the pain from an organ is felt in the right side of the back. These strong pain messages are delivered through nerve pathways right to the spine and the corresponding spinal root. This is why doctors have to perform complex investigations in order to identify the reason behind the discomfort, preventing their patients from carrying on with their daily activities.

Causes of Pain in the Right side of Back

The following represent potential causes that can lead to pain in the right side of back:

  • Spinal problems
  • Slipped or herniated disc - this happens when the soft nucleus of the spinal disc herniates through a spot, pushing the cartilaginous tissue
  • Scoliosis - as the vertebral column takes the form of an S, the muscles are strained and pain will appear when trying to straighten the spine
  • Sciatica - the sciatic nerve is compressed totally or partially
  • Poor posture - poor posture occurs at a desk but it can also be during sleeping, walking or doing daily activities
  • Kidney problems
  • Infection of the urinary tract
  • Kidney stones
  • Kidney infection
  • Obstructive uropathy - this happens when the urine flow to the bladder is blocked and it backs up to the kidneys
  • Pyelonephritis - this requires emergency treatment as kidneys tend to swell, threatening one's life
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Urinary bladder problems Interstitial cystitis - inflammation of the inner lining of the urinary bladder
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Pancreatic problems
  • Pancreatitis
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Other types of cancers
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma


Depending on the cause of the right side back pain, the following course of treatment might be chosen:

  • For spinal problems and poor posture:
  • Physical therapy
  • Electrotherapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Surgery in the case of completely herniated discs.
  • For kidney problems:
  • Anti-inflammatory medication for kidney infections and kidney stones
  • Urological surgery for big kidney stones
  • Morphine for serious renal colic
  • Antibiotics for urinary tract infections and pyelonephritis
  • Surgery or drug therapy for obstructive uropathy
  • Dialysis or renal transplant for polycystic kidney disease
  • Drug therapy for gallbladder problems
  • Surgery for interstitial cystitis
  • Diet consultation for irritable bowel syndrome and obesity
  • Drug therapy and intravenous fluids for pancreatitis
  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy for pancreatic cancer
  • Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy for ovarian and colon cancer
  • Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation and stem cell transplant for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Symptomatic treatment for the actual pain can include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication administered orally
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Topical creams, gels and ointments
  • Laser and ultrasound applications
  • Heat and ice applications (heat is perfect for pain, ice in the non-painful phase but great for inflammation)
  • Chiropractic adjustment
  • Physical therapy

As you can see for yourself, in order to get rid of the pain felt in the right back side, you have to address not only the pain itself but also the underlying medical condition. Otherwise, you will risk solving the symptom for a temporary period of time and return to the same problem soon. Plus, as you have seen for yourself, some of these medical conditions that lead to right side back pain are serious and they can lead to even more serious problems, if left untreated.

Nov 25, 2014
Pain Management

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