Right flank pain: Causes and symptoms

right flank painIn between the ribs and pelvic bone lie your flanks, of which there are two (one on each side of the body). There are a few parts of the flank, but the easiest way to identify it is through the lower part of the flank. Fat accumulates in this region and form “love handles.” However, if you were to ask someone the name of that area, they’d probably just call it their side.

In unfortunate cases, you can experience pain in this region. There are common causes of flank pain that can affect both sides—like issues with the kidney or ureters. On the other hand, there are also issues that could solely affect the right flank. Organs that exist in the right side of the body or nearby can cause right flank pain. The following organs may be suffering if you’re experiencing right flank pain:

  • Gallbladder
  • Right kidney or ureter
  • Colon
  • Appendix
  • Urinary bladder
  • Pancreas

What causes right flank pain?


If you’re experiencing chronic right flank pain, it’s probably caused by some issue regarding your right kidney. Here are some potential issues you could be experiencing with your kidney:

  • Polycystic kidney disease is a condition where multiple cysts exist within the kidney. These cysts may be caused by genetic abnormalities, and could potentially lead to kidney failure. Another dangerous complication of the disease is high blood pressure, which could lead to heart disease.
  • Pyelonephritis results from a urinary tract infection and is bacterial in nature. It’s an infection that can result in life-threatening complications.
  • Kidney trauma can occur through any type of injury to the kidney, whether that be through an accident like a car crash or sharp force trauma. Internal bleeding commonly exists alongside trauma.
  • Renal artery stenosis occurs when the artery that carries blood to the kidney narrows.
  • Renal vein thrombosis is a condition where a blood clot forms in the vein that transports blood from the kidney.
  • Hydronephrosis occurs when the urinary tract is obstructed with something like a kidney stone, an enlarged prostate, or pregnancy. The obstruction can cause urine to accumulate in the kidney, causing it to swell.

Some liver diseases can also be responsible for pain in the right flank. These conditions are restricted to the outer part of the right lobe of the liver.

  • Fatty liver disease occurs when fat accumulates in liver tissue. It’s frequently caused by obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
  • Liver inflammation is a symptom hepatitis, which is either caused by an infection or alcohol abuse.

Problems with the large intestine can cause right flank pain too. These include:

  • An inflamed appendix, known as appendicitis. It’s caused by an infection of the appendix or obstruction. Appendicitis pain would be experienced closer to the belly button.
  • Colonic obstruction is the blockage of the colon. The colon can be blocked by a tumor, a twisted colon, or impacted feces.
  • You may experience pain in your right flank if your bowel wall stops receiving an adequate blood supply. This is known as ischemic bowel disease, and it can lead to severe damage if not complete death of the tissue.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affects the colon and rectum and comes in two forms: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. It’s an inflammatory disorder of the gut.

When your ureter is affected, you could experience right flank pain. Kidney conditions commonly extend to the ureter, which can cause pain in the center of the lower abdomen. Some conditions are:

  • Ureteral cancer is a tumor of the ureter that often starts in the kidney.
  • Ureteral stones, also known as kidney stones, can lodge in the ureter or damage the inner wall as they pass.
  • Inflammation of the ureter is known as ureteritis, which is caused by a urinary tract infection.
There are other causes of right flank pain that aren’t limited to these areas, including:

  • Side stitch, which are exercise-related abdominal pains that occur in all types of athletes. It occurs when the ligaments attaching the liver to the diaphragm stretch, resulting in pain below the ribs.
  • Adrenal gland tumors, which form on the adrenal glands sitting atop the kidneys.
  • Muscle strain
  • Abdominal wall injury
  • Pneumonia

Right flank pain symptoms

The symptoms that exist alongside right flank pain depend based on the underlying condition. If you’re experiencing kidney or ureter problems, you could experience frequent urination, bloody urine, or burning while urinating.

Problems in the liver could cause jaundice, weight loss, nausea, and diarrhea to present together with right flank pain.


Lastly, colon conditions could present with diarrhea or constipation, bloody stool, abdominal distention, or excessive flatulence.

As you can tell, there are a lot of potential causes of the right flank pain. Complications of the liver, colon, ureter, or kidneys could all cause right flank pain to present with other symptoms. If you’re experiencing this type of pain and don’t know the cause, it’s important to get to the doctor. If the pain is excruciating, a hospital trip may be required, as some of the causes are life threatening.

Related: What causes liver pain?

Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.



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