The kidneys are a pair of organs located below your ribs on either side of your spine. Their function is to filter the blood and get rid of excess fluids and wastes in the urine.

Some people ask, “Why do my kidneys hurt at night?” Any pain associated with one or both kidneys are usually felt in the flank or back, towards the edge of the lower ribs. Other typical complaints include “pain in right kidney when lying down” or “kidney pain worse lying down”.

Why Do My Kidneys Hurt?

Kidney pain is usually sudden or acute, but it can also be persistent or chronic. It can range from mild to severe and may involve one or both sides. Other descriptions of kidney pain include sharp, colicky, cramping, dull or throbbing. Below are common causes of kidney pain that may worsen at night. Consult your physician for proper evaluation and diagnostic tests.

Kidney Stone

Why do my kidneys hurt at night? Can it be due to a kidney stone? Kidney stones may not cause pain or other symptoms until they cause obstruction within your kidney or ureter, which connects your kidney to the bladder. Signs and symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • Severe flank pain

  • Pain may spread to your lower abdomen and the groin

  • Varying intensity of pain that usually comes in waves

  • Pain when urinating

  • Change in urine color (pink/red/brown)

  • Foul-smelling or cloudy urine

  • Nausea, vomiting

  • Increased frequency of urination

  • If infection is present, fever and chills may occur

  • Urinating in small amounts

A kidney stone may cause varying changes in pain, which can shift to different locations as it moves through the urinary tract. For example, it can cause pain in right kidney when lying down or you may experience kidney pain, worse lying down.

What to do:

1) Small stones

Most people who have small kidney stones do not require surgical treatment. Small stones may be able to pass out by:

  • Drinking more water (2-3 liters a day)

  • Taking pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil), and naproxen sodium (Aleve).

  • Medications to help pass kidney stones, such as alpha blockers, which relax the muscles of the ureters.

2) Large stones

Kidney stones that cause significant symptoms and cannot be treated with conservative medical measures require more aggressive treatment such as:

  • Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy or ESWL, which uses sound waves that break up kidney stones and allow them to pass through the urine

  • Surgery (percutaneous nephrolithotomy), which uses small instruments inserted through small incisions in the back.

  • Removing the stones through a ureteroscope (a thin lighted tube with a camera), which is inserted through the urethra.

  • Surgery on the parathyroid gland, which can produce excess parathyroid hormone, leading to the formation of calcium phosphate stones. Hyperparathyroidism (overactive parathyroid glands) can also occur due to a benign tumor, which must be removed to stop the formation of kidney stones.


Kidney Infection

Why do my kidneys hurt at night? A kidney infection may be another possible cause. Common symptoms may include:

  • Pain in your lower back, flank or genitals

  • High fever

  • Chills

  • Weakness/tiredness

  • Feeling sick

  • Loss of appetite

  • Diarrhea

  • Foul-smelling or cloudy urine

  • Increased frequency of urination

  • Pain when urinating

What to do:

  • Take antibiotics, which are prescribed as the main treatments for kidney infections. The type of antibiotics prescribed will depend on the type of bacteria causing your infection. These must be taken as directed until the infection is eliminated completely.

  • Severe kidney infection may need hospitalization and administration of intravenous antibiotics.

  • Recurrent kidney infections often result from underlying medical problems, such as structural abnormalities, which may need further evaluation and treatment by a nephrologist (kidney specialist) or a urologist (urinary surgeon).

  • Lifestyle and home remedies include heat application on the back, side or abdomen, taking over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, and proper hydration. Avoid alcohol and coffee, which can aggravate your symptoms.

Others’ Experience and Advice


“I asked my doctor, ‘why do my kidneys hurt at night?’ I have felt this on and off pain for many years now, but lately the pain has become more severe. After undergoing many tests, my doctor found a large kidney stone, which is going to be treated by blasting using laser treatment. I am so relieved because I have been taking pain killers for so long, and hopefully now it is all going to be better.”


“Anyone that has kidney pain, worse lying down? It is very difficult to sleep at night, with pain in right kidney. It gets worse when I turn side to side, so much so that I have to grab my mattress just to turn over.

I have just been diagnosed with kidney stone which causes severe pain that is far worse at night. But now I am receiving medications that seem to make my condition improve. I can now sleep at night peacefully. So if you think you have kidney pains, don’t suffer – see your doctor right away.”

Note: Make Sure It’s Not From Something Else

Flank pain is usually associated with kidney pain, but pain in this area may also come from other organs such as the spleen, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, colon, aneurysm in the abdominal aorta, the lungs, or other structures in the lower back (muscles, spine or nerves).


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