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How Your Kidney is Related to Upper Back Pain After Drinking Alcohol

Alcohol consumption has always been linked to a number of diseases and health conditions, most especially liver and kidney issues. But a lot of people are unaware of the link between drinking alcohol and back pain. While chronic back pain can lead to alcohol dependency (drinking the pain away), overconsumption of alcohol can actually contribute to back pain, which can be traced back to your liver.

So it’s only natural to be curious as to how your kidney is related to upper back pain after drinking alcohol. When alcohol is consumed in large quantities, it can trigger a lot of health problems such as liver issues, obesity, nerves and yes,  kidney degeneration. Your kidneys filter and get rid of your body’s waste through the urine and when you drink, your kidneys work extra hard to get rid of the excess alcohol. This can lead to your back pain issues.

Effect of Drinking Alcohol on Your Kidneys

Your kidneys play a very important role in keeping your body healthy and free from harmful substances. Aside from filtering and getting rid of the waste, your kidneys also make sure that your body maintains a proper balance of fluid and electrolytes. So when you’re drinking, your kidneys work double-time to flush out the excess alcohol from your body, which can result in the pain that you’re feeling right now. 

When you drink alcohol, you tend to urinate frequently, which leads to dehydration. This can affect your kidney’s functions, as well as the other organs. This gives way to symptoms such as pain in your kidney, flank, and back.

Symptoms of Kidney Pain After Drinking

Have you ever noticed the area around your kidneys feeling sore after a bout of drinking? This area is made up of the back of your abdomen, both sides of your spine, and under your rib cage. The pain can be a dull ache or a sudden, sharp, and stabbing sort. It can be mild or severe and felt in one or both sides of your body.

Kidney pain can be felt in your upper or lower back or between your lower ribs and your buttocks. You may feel it immediately after having a drink or after you’ve stopped drinking. Those who experience this pain report that it usually gets worse at night. Aside from this, other symptoms include headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, fever, and chills. You may also experience painful urination or there’s blood in your urine.

Causes of Kidney and Back Pain After Drinking Alcohol

Portrait of man with alcohol drink sitting on sofa at home

It’s important to find out the reason for your pain and discomfort so you will know what to do in case it’s a sign of a more serious condition. These are the common causes of kidney and back pain after consuming alcohol.

1. Dehydration

Alcohol is a diuretic, which is why you get so thirsty and dehydrated after a night of drinking. Drinking alcohol causes you to urinate more, which leads to dehydration, especially when you drink excessively. This is why alcohol affects the ability of your kidneys in balancing the level of water and electrolytes in your body. When this balance gets upset, it could impair your kidneys and increase your chances of developing kidney stones. 

This is why hydrating is so important not just to your kidneys, but to your overall health as well. Make it a habit to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes. Water is fine most of the time for dry mouth but when you’re really dehydrated (usually after drinking alcohol or staying out in the sun too long), get a sports drink that has electrolytes and carbohydrate solution. Don’t get those drinks with sugar since this can dehydrate you more. 

2. Liver Disease

The liver is always linked to alcohol abuse because it’s the organ most impaired when one is an alcoholic. An alcoholic liver disease makes you more prone to liver pain and discomfort after drinking alcohol. It can also affect the flow of blood to your kidneys and make them less effective in filtering your blood of wastes. It can also lead to fatty liver and more serious cases of liver damage.

Restoring the health of your liver means you have to stop drinking, lose weight (if you’re overweight), and eat healthier. In more serious cases, you may be required to take medications or undergo surgery. Worst case scenario is liver failure, in which you will be needing a liver transplant.

3. Kidney Stones 

Dehydration due to drinking alcohol may lead to the formation of kidney stones. If you already have stones, drinking alcohol can cause them to move quickly and can result in kidney pain, which can lead to back pain. If your kidney stones are just small, you can still treat them by drinking more water, take medications, or doing some home remedies, such as celery juice, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice. Make sure to get your doctor’s approval first before you resort to home remedies in preventing kidney disease.

Kidney issues such as this are also closely related to other conditions such as gallstone and pain in the pancreas, which can also manifest as stomach pain and upper abdominal pain.

4. Kidney Infection

Kidney infection is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI) that originates in the bladder of the urethra and moves to one of both kidneys. Drinking alcohol can make the symptoms and severity of UTIs worse. When this happens, drink lots of water and visit your doctor right away. 

You can reduce the discomfort by applying a hot compress to the affected area or taking pain medication. If your doctor confirms kidney infection, you will be required to take antibiotics. If your kidney infections are recurring or turn severe, you may need hospitalization or surgery. 

5. Ureteropelvic Junction (UPJ) Obstruction

UPJ obstruction is a condition that impedes the proper functioning of your kidneys and bladder. If you have UPJ, you may experience kidney pain after drinking alcohol. You will feel the pain in the side, your back, or your abdomen. At times, the pain can travel to the groin. Drinking alcohol will only make the pain worse. UPJ obstruction can be treated with a minimally invasive procedure. Severe cases may need surgery.

6. Gastritis

Gastritis is a condition in which the lining of your stomach becomes swollen or inflamed. It’s not directly related to the kidneys, but the pain can be associated with it since it’s felt in the upper abdomen and somewhere else in the digestive tract. You can treat this condition by not avoiding alcohol, pain medications, and recreational drugs. For pain relief, drinking antacids is a safe way to do it. To reduce the production of stomach acid, your doctor may prescribe proton pump inhibitors or H2 antagonists. Doing so may also avoid having a stomach ulcer.

Cutting Down on Alcohol to Eliminate Back Pain

Severe pain relief is one of the reasons why people go binge drinking, but it’s not a healthy one. In fact, having a drink or two can actually contribute to chronic pain. For some people, it only takes a single glass for their pain and other symptoms to flare up. Given this reason, it’s worth understanding the physiological links between alcohol and back pain. While alcohol can act as a muscle relaxant for some people, it can also lead to muscle spasms, which in turn leads to back pain. 

If you’re in the habit of drinking a lot, your muscles are at a higher risk of becoming weak and dehydrated. And of course, let’s not forget about your kidneys here, since they need to filter lots of water in order to break down the alcohol in your body. Since you’re dehydrated, there’s not enough water to filter, so your kidneys will take it out on your muscles.

It’s one thing to have the usual symptoms such as swelling of your stomach lining, UTI, or kidney infection, but it’s another to have a more serious condition. Alcohol-related back pain can also indicate diseases such as chronic pancreatitis or acute pancreatitis (or worse, pancreatic cancer), polyneuropathy, alcoholic hepatitis, and Hodgkin lymphoma. This is why you should check in with your doctor regularly if you have an alcohol habit, especially if you start to notice other things, such as neck pain and chest pain, which may or may not be related to your kidney or back pain.

Cutting back on alcohol is a no-brainer when it comes to restoring your general health. You may have to deal with the uncomfortable effects of alcohol withdrawal and withdrawal symptoms, but it's definitely worth the effort to reduce the risk of alcohol related liver disease, among other things. Here are some tips for moderate drinking so you can reduce your alcohol intake or eliminate it altogether.

  • Change your reasons for drinking - setting goals can make you gain control of the amount of alcohol you’re consuming. You may opt not to drink when you’re alone or not drinking right away whenever you’re stressed. Scheduling alcohol-free days during the week can also work wonders.
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach - eating a good meal before you drink will slow down the absorption of alcohol in your stomach. Also, make it a point to drink water in between drinks. This will prevent you from reaching for your alcohol to gulp down while you’re between spoonfuls. 
  • Go for low-alcohol drinks - if you really need to drink, at least make an effort to take low-alcohol wine or light beer. 
  • Avoid salty snacks while you’re drinking - salty treats make you thirsty and will make you want to drink more. Learn to wave off that free bowl of salty snacks at the bar.

Are you dealing with upper back pain and you’re not sure what’s causing it? Let New York Pain Care handle your pain. You get the best treatment options for whatever ails you, from back pain to sports injuries. Call New York Pain Care now and work towards a more comfortable, pain-free life.

Learn more: How to Deal With Upper Back Pain After Eating

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