Flank Pain - Where is it, What is it
Written by Glenn Rosenberg   
Thursday, 15 October 2009

The flanks are the sides of the abdomen, located between the ribs and the pelvis, or hipbone. Flank pain refers to any pain or discomfort in this area.

What is going on in the body?

Flank pain usually only occurs on one side, but may be mild or severe. There are many possible causes, ranging from unimportant to serious.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?

There are many possible causes of flank pain. Common causes include:
- kidney stones
- pyelonephritis, which is a kidney infection
- urinary tract infections, such as a bladder infection
- irritable bowel syndrome, a poorly understood condition which causes abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements
- gallbladder pain due to gallstones
- gallbladder disease
- inflammation in the bowels, such as that caused by peptic ulcers or appendicitis
- hepatitis
- pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas
- an enlarged or damaged spleen
- pneumonia
- a tumor or cancer inside the abdomen, such as colon cancer

Other causes are also possible. Sometimes a cause cannot be found.

What are the treatments for the condition?

Pain medication can be given as needed for relief of the flank pain. Stronger medications for pain, such as morphine, may be needed in some cases. Those with a kidney stone may be able to pass the stone into their urine. If the stone passes, no other treatment is needed. If the stone doesn't pass, surgery may be needed to remove it.

Those with gallbladder disease or appendicitis usually need surgery.

Someone with irritable bowel syndrome may be given medication to help the bowel relax or prevent it from having spasms. Those with a urinary tract infection are usually given antibiotics. Those with a tumor or cancer may need surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
Side effects depend on the treatments used. For instance, antibiotics can cause allergic reactions and stomach upset. Any surgery carries a risk of bleeding, infection, and allergic reaction to anesthesia.

What happens after treatment for the condition?
Someone who passes a kidney stone or has it removed may not need any further treatment. A person with irritable bowel syndrome may need long-term treatment for pain flare-ups. An individual with cancer may need long-term treatment for the cancer and may die if treatment doesn't work.