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Kidney Stone Pain

What Can Mimic Kidney Stone Pain?

Kidney stone pain is often described as one of the most excruciatingly painful experiences a person can endure. However, there are a handful of other medical conditions that are capable of mimicking the extremely painful symptoms of kidney stones, which can possibly lead to confusion and inaccurate diagnosis.

In this article, we will shed light on what kidney stones are, their symptoms, causes, and risk factors; along with exploring some of the most common culprits that can imitate kidney stone pain, highlighting the importance of accurate diagnosis for effective treatment at Manhattan Medical Arts.

What is a Kidney Stone?

Kidney stones, also known as renal calculi, are hard mineral and salt deposits that are formed inside the kidneys. They can range in sizes, from a grain of sand to a larger, more substantial mass.

Kidney stones are formed when certain substances in the urine, such as calcium, oxalate, and uric acid, become concentrated and crystallize over time. These crystals can then combine and form solid masses, leading to the development of kidney stones.

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Kidney Stones Symptoms

The symptoms of kidney stones can vary for individuals depending on the size, location, and movement of the stone within the urinary tract.

Some common symptoms include:

Intense Pain

The hallmark symptom of kidney stones is severe pain. It typically originates in the back or side below the ribs and radiates towards the lower abdomen and groin area. The pain can be experienced in waves and may fluctuate in intensity.


Kidney stones can cause blood to appear in the urine, leading to hematuria. The urine may appear pink, red, or brown in color – However, not all cases of kidney stones result in visible blood in the urine.

Changes in Urination

Kidney stones can disrupt normal urine flow, resulting in various changes in urination patterns. This may include frequent urination, urgency to urinate, or decreased urine output. Some individuals may also experience a burning sensation or pain during urination.

Nausea and Vomiting

Kidney stone pain can trigger feelings of nausea and may lead to vomiting in some cases. These symptoms are typically associated with severe or prolonged pain.

Cloudy or Foul-Smelling Urine

In certain instances, kidney stones can cause changes in urine appearance and odor. The urine may appear cloudy or have an unpleasant smell due to the presence of bacteria or other substances.

Additional Symptoms: Depending on the stone’s size, location, and its impact on the urinary system, individuals may experience symptoms such as:

  • Urinary urgency
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Discomfort while sitting or standing

It is important to note that not all kidney stones cause symptoms. Some stones may remain undetected and pass through the urinary system without causing noticeable discomfort. However, if you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms or suspect you may have a kidney stone, urgently visit Manhattan Medical Arts for a proper diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan.

Causes & Risk Factors of Kidney Stones

Several factors contribute to the formation of kidney stones. The most common causes and risk factors include:


Inadequate fluid intake can result in concentrated urine, increasing the likelihood of stone formation.

Dietary Factors

A diet high in sodium, oxalate, and animal protein and low in calcium and fluids can contribute to the development of kidney stones. Foods such as spinach, rhubarb, chocolate, nuts, and certain beverages like soda and tea should be consumed in moderation.

Family or Personal History

If you have a family history of kidney stones, you may have an increased risk of developing them. Additionally, if you have had kidney stones in the past, you are more likely to have recurrent stones.

Certain Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as hyperparathyroidism, gout, urinary tract infections, and inflammatory bowel disease, can increase the risk of kidney stone formation.


Being overweight or obese can contribute to the development of kidney stones.

Certain Medications

Some medications, including diuretics, calcium-based antacids, and certain antibiotics, may increase the risk of kidney stone formation.

What Can Mimic Kidney Stone Pain?

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Urinary tract infections, particularly those affecting the kidneys or bladder, can cause intense pain that closely resembles kidney stone pain. The infection irritates the urinary system, leading to discomfort, lower abdominal pain, frequent urination, and a burning sensation during urination. If you suspect a kidney stone but have accompanying symptoms of a UTI, it’s crucial to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and targeted treatment.

Musculoskeletal Issues

Believe it or not, problems with muscles, bones, or surrounding tissues can sometimes mimic kidney stone pain. Conditions such as muscle strains, herniated discs, or spinal issues can radiate pain to the lower back or abdominal area, resembling the characteristic pain associated with kidney stones. The key differentiating factor is the absence of urinary symptoms like blood in the urine or changes in urination patterns. If you experience back pain without urinary symptoms, consulting a healthcare professional or specialist may help identify the true cause.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Certain gastrointestinal disorders can manifest with abdominal pain similar to kidney stone pain. Conditions like appendicitis, diverticulitis, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can cause sharp, severe abdominal pain, potentially confusing it with kidney stone pain. Associated symptoms, such as changes in bowel habits, nausea, vomiting, or fever, can provide clues to differentiate between kidney stones and gastrointestinal issues. Seeking medical evaluation is essential to determine an accurate diagnosis and initiate appropriate treatment.

Ovarian or Testicular Conditions

In some cases, women may experience pelvic pain due to conditions such as ovarian cysts, ovarian torsion, or endometriosis. These conditions can produce pain similar to kidney stones, making it important to consider gynecological factors when evaluating the source of pain. Similarly, testicular torsion in males can lead to severe testicular pain that may be mistaken for kidney stone pain. A thorough examination by a healthcare professional specializing in gynecology or urology can help rule out or diagnose these conditions accurately.

Nerve-related Issues

Certain nerve-related conditions can cause pain that resembles kidney stone pain. For example, conditions like sciatica or pinched nerves in the lower back can radiate pain to the abdomen, leading to confusion. The presence of specific neurological symptoms like tingling, numbness, or weakness in the legs can help differentiate nerve-related pain from kidney stones. Consulting with our healthcare experts or neurologists at Manhattan Medical Arts can assist in identifying and managing these conditions appropriately.


While kidney stone pain is notorious for its intensity, it is essential to consider other conditions that can mimic its symptoms. Urinary tract infections, musculoskeletal issues, gastrointestinal disorders, ovarian or testicular conditions, and nerve-related problems are just a few examples of conditions that can imitate kidney stone pain. 

Seeking medical evaluation and obtaining an accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment and the prevention of complications. Remember, a healthcare professional is the best resource to help unravel the mystery behind your pain and guide you toward the appropriate course of action.

This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 05/25/2023

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  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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