Back pain is possible with a UTI, but the exact location depends on how far the infection has spread within the urinary tract.
The urinary tract includes the:
- urethra, which is a tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body
- ureters, which are the two tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder
Lower UTIs are usually limited to the urethra and bladder, while upper UTIs can involve the ureters and kidneys.
“When the bladder is involved, the pain is typically lower back pain,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, OB-GYN at Yale-New Haven Hospital and clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University School of Medicine.
Meanwhile, when the kidneys are infected, a person can usually feel pain in the upper back, she says.
“The back pain from a UTI is often described as a dull, aching tenderness in the lower back region,” says Jill Krapf, MD, OB-GYN, with The Center for Vulvovaginal Disorders in Tampa, Florida.
“Some people might describe it as a constant discomfort or a throbbing sensation,” adds Krapf.
The pain is the most apparent when touched on that area of the back, explains Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, the director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln in New York City.
“Typically, tapping on the back is what will elicit pain,” says Gaither.
Consult a healthcare professional if you have back pain or other UTI symptoms.
“A doctor will typically perform a physical examination, ask about your symptoms, and may order urine tests to confirm the UTI and assess its severity,” says Krapf.
Doctors may prescribe oral antibiotics for lower UTIs, which are generally mild.
In more severe cases — and a UTI that causes upper back pain is generally more severe — intravenous (IV) antibiotics may be necessary, says Krapf.
“Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can help manage pain while the antibiotics work to treat the infection,” she says.
“However, ibuprofen alone is not a treatment for a UTI, and failure to treat a UTI can lead to further progression of the infection.”
Unexpected back pain isn’t necessarily a UTI symptom. But if it interferes with your day-to-day life or occurs with other unusual symptoms, it’s worth making an appointment with a healthcare professional.
“People often experience other more severe symptoms, including high fever and chills, pain or tenderness in the lower back or sides, nausea and vomiting, and general fatigue,” explains Krapf.
A clinician can determine the underlying cause and make or confirm a UTI diagnosis.
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellek