Renal Colic
Renal Colic

About this topic

Renal colic is very bad pain caused by a block in the path of urine draining from the kidney. The block may be from a narrow place in the path of urine drainage. Other times the block is from a kidney stone. When these kidney stones are too big or get stuck, a person can have bad pain in the back, lower belly, or groin. As the stones try to move down into the bladder and out of the body, they can cause constant pain or the pain may come and go. The pain can last for hours or for days until the block is relieved. This can happen when:

  • The stone passes
  • Your doctor removes the kidney stone
  • The doctor fixes the blockage
  • The urine is drained from your kidney in another way


What are the causes?

  • Kidney stoned
  • Narrowing or scar tissue in the ureter
  • Something outside the urinary tract pushing on the ureter and blocking the urine drainage
  • Blood clots in the ureter
  • Pregnancy

What can make this more likely to happen?

Kidney stones can be caused by eating a diet high in animal protein like meat and eggs. People who are very overweight may also have a higher chance of having kidney stones. Once you have had a kidney stone, you are likely to have more or have scar tissue in your ureter. If other family members have kidney stones, you are also more likely to have them. Some people are born with a block.

What are the main signs?

  • Sharp, stabbing pain in the mid to lower back
  • Upset stomach and throwing up
  • Faster heartbeat
  • Blood in the urine
  • Bad smelling, cloudy urine
  • Passing less urine or feeling the need to pass urine frequently
  • Fever and chills

How does the doctor diagnose this health problem?

Your doctor will take your history and will do an exam. The doctor may order:

  • Lab tests
  • Urine culture
  • X-rays
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound
  • Nuclear imaging studies

How does the doctor treat this health problem?

  • Drink liquids often to flush your kidneys and avoid fluid loss.
  • Lie on your side that is not having pain.
  • Put heat on your belly.
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Drugs to help with pain

If you cannot pass the kidney stone on your own or if you have a block from another problem, you may need care in a hospital or procedure center. Your doctor may want to:

  • Place a stent to go around the blockage and help with urine flow
  • Place a tube in your back to drain urine directly from the kidney
  • Do a procedure that crushes or removes the stone

You should start feeling better soon after the block has been relieved or the kidney stone has been treated.

What drugs may be needed?

Your doctor may order drugs to:

  • Help with pain
  • Prevent or fight an infection
  • Treat upset stomach and throwing up
  • Relax the muscles in the urinary tract
  • Prevent constipation
  • Help with bladder spasms

What problems could happen?

Stones may lodge in the kidney itself or in the tubes that carry urine from the kidney to the bladder. This or other blocks could cause:

  • Trouble passing urine
  • Kidney infection which could get into the blood
  • Urine backs up into the kidney and causes it to swell. This is hydronephrosis.
  • Kidney failure

What can be done to prevent this health problem?

  • Drink lots of liquids, mostly water.
  • Avoid sugary drinks, coffee, and tea.
  • Use less salt and eat less salty foods.
  • Avoid a high protein diet.
  • Talk with your doctor about a diet right for you. Based on your chance for getting kidney stones, you may need to limit or avoid certain types of foods and drinks. Talking to a dietician may help.

Where can I learn more?

British Association of Urological Surgeons

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

National Kidney Foundation


Reference: Renal Colic, Lexicomp, Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc