What Can Mimic Kidney Stone Pain? 4 With Similar Symptoms

Reviewed by Jocelyn Chen, BME

A team of qualified and experienced fact-checkers carefully reviews our content before it is published on our website. At MIDSS, we rely on the latest and most reliable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the end of each article. We also do not accept plagiarised and misleading content from our authors and contributors. Read more about our fact check and editorial process.

what can mimic kidney stone pain
Some conditions mimic kidney stone pain. Photo: Shutterstock

With roughly one in ten adults[1] developing a kidney stone sometime during their life, this is a common condition that troubles many. When kidney stones form, they cause pain in the abdominal area as the body moves them around.

Along the path to excretion, intestines and muscles in the lower abdomen can experience pain due to either kidney stones or other ailments. When pain develops, it is important to know what can mimic kidney stone pain and distinguish between them.

If you are diagnosed with kidney stones, here is a guide on how to get rid of kidney stones. However, not all pain in the abdominal area is due to this. Let’s take a closer look at kidney stones, what they are, which symptoms to closely monitor, and other ailments that mimic the condition.

What Can Mimic Kidney Stone Pain?

What can mimic kidney stone pain on the left side? There are four conditions with similar symptoms:

  • Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
  • Stomach Flu.
  • Appendicitis Pain.
  • Menstrual Cramps.

Depending on the target organ, pain can occur in similar abdominal areas. However, knowing how to distinguish the locations and types of pain that you are experiencing can help you further identify the correct cause and obtain the proper treatment needed.

What Can Mimic Kidney Stone Pain? 

While monitoring your symptoms, keep in mind four common conditions that can mimic passing a stone, with abdominal pain as a primary sign. These conditions are discussed in further detail below.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

An UTI is an infection of the urinary tract that can cause pain in the lower back and frequent urination.[2] This infection can closely mimic kidney stones in that it has many of the same symptoms. Kidney stones may also give rise to UTIs. Proper treatment for an UTI to prevent damage to your kidneys. If you suspect that you may have an UTI, discussing your symptoms with a healthcare provider is a great start.

Stomach Flu 

The stomach flu, also known as viral gastroenteritis,[3] is an infection caused by a virus. This stomach bug can be spread from person to person through improper hand hygiene, eating food or water infected with the virus, or through dirty eating utensils or plates.

The stomach flu can cause symptoms[4] such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping. If you have any of these symptoms and suspect it might be a stomach bug, often the treatment is to hydrate and get some rest.

If the abdominal cramping becomes too severe and leads to pain, it could mimic kidney stone pain. However, unlike the stomach flu, kidney stones pain tends to move throughout the abdominal area, whereas the stomach flu is more generalized and stays in the same areas.

Appendicitis Pain 

Appendicitis is a condition in which the appendix, a small and thin organ attached to the large intestine, contains a blockage that leads to an infection. This ailment can closely mimic kidney stones in that it can cause abdominal pain[5] that can radiate to the lower right side of the belly button.

It is important to note any abdominal pain symptoms that you might be experiencing, especially since appendicitis is a condition which requires emergency room medical intervention and possibly surgery.

Menstrual Cramps

Another condition that can mimic kidney stones is menstrual cramping. When menstrual cramps are severe, they can often be mistaken for kidney stones since the pain that occurs is in the same general area.

Similarly, a kidney stone can sometimes be described as menstrual pain, thus adding to the difficulty in deciphering between the two conditions. However, a key distinguishing feature for menstrual cramps is that it almost always accompanies menstruation in women, and does not occur in men.

What Is A Kidney Stone? 

A kidney stone is a collection of salts and minerals that have been collected within the kidneys. They often form small crystals that harden. For most people, kidney stones pass naturally. However, those with larger stones or multiple stones may require surgery.

In order to diagnose kidney stones, your healthcare provider might order various tests in addition to assessing your symptoms. These tests could include a urinalysis, an ultrasound, blood tests, x-ray, or a computerized tomography scan (CT scan).

To prevent kidney stone symptoms, hydration might be the best option. Dehydration, excessive exercise, and a poor diet all can play a factor in kidney stones and can lead to the formation of salts and minerals. 

Watching what you eat might also be helpful in maintaining kidney function. Foods that are high in sodium and salts, sodas, and processed meats may have a link to stone formation. In addition, consuming apple cider vinegar for kidney stones or the best probiotic for men and women might help.

Supplementing with Multi GI 5 reviews might have some benefit for your condition as well. If you are susceptible to kidney stones, it’s best to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider about supplementation prior to use.

Kidney Stone Symptoms 

Kidney stones are a collection of salts and minerals that accumulate within the kidneys. While pain is often one the primary symptoms, here are some common signs when a stone arises.

Centralized Pain

The kidneys are located roughly at the level of the belly button. Generally, pain will be present in the lower back area but cannot be excluded from the abdomen or oblique areas. Between individuals, the level of pain can be subjective and vary depending on the size and shape of the individual stone.

Just keep in mind that the cause of  pain might not always be consistent in the same exact area, especially as it moves through your GI tract.

Unusual Urine Color

One of the key symptoms of a kidney stone is if your urine changes color.  Based on recent studies,[6] urine could be red, pink, or brown and with a cloudy appearance. In comparison, healthy urine is typically clear or light yellow without any cloudiness. If this is something you notice, consult a healthcare provider to determine if you are experiencing kidney stones.

Frequent Urination

When a kidney stone forms, it often needs to be passed through the urinary tract. Blockage to the urinary tract may increase the urgency to urinate due to a buildup of urine.

Nausea & Vomiting

This symptom generally accompanies other symptoms previously mentioned in the case of kidney stones. If any symptoms cause you to suspect a kidney stone, it is important to discuss your concern with a professional healthcare provider.

In addition, chronic nausea and vomiting can lead to dehydration and other issues, so finding a resolution to this symptom could be of timely importance.

What Does Kidney Stone Pain Feel Like? 

what can mimic kidney stone pain
Lower abdominal and back pain are common with kidney stones. Photo: Shutterstock

The specific experience of an individual’s kidney stones varies widely, but there are still some common symptoms one can look out for. Typical kidney stone pain tends to be sharp and severe in the oblique area and lower back. It can also travel to the groin and throughout the abdomen, thus making it tough to pinpoint.

If you have substantial pain in these areas, seek advice from a medical professional as soon as you can.

When To See A Doctor

Anytime pain is present in the abdomen, it is crucial to see a doctor to gain a better grasp of what might be wrong. The symptoms that you experience should give your practitioner some insight as to what you are experiencing. Consider writing your symptoms down as they appear that way you can have a clear picture for when you go in for medical consultation.


While kidney stones are a common cause of abdominal pain, other conditions can as well. When abdominal pain is felt, take note of the type and location of the pain over time. If it persists or becomes too severe, consult a doctor as soon as possible. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common symptoms of kidney stones that are shared with other conditions?

Many symptoms, particularly pain, of kidney stones occur in other conditions including UTIs, stomach flu, appendicitis, and menstrual cramps. However, different conditions present pain in unique ways, such as the type of pain, the range and location within the body, the patient’s sex, and the presence of accompanying symptoms such as nausea or abnormal urine.

How do I distinguish which condition I actually have based on my symptoms?

If you are experiencing pain at home, assess your body holistically, note the specific type of pain that you are experiencing along with any accompanying symptoms. If the pain is not severe, you can explore home remedies. However, if there is any significant bleeding along with pain or if the pain persists for a long period of time, see a doctor immediately.

What should I do if I am not sure how to treat the pain?

Proper diagnosis of a medical condition is best done by a medical professional. Even online symptom checkers may be misleading as patients may misidentify their own symptoms. Therefore, always consult a medical professional such as your primary doctor, the emergency room, or a telehealth doctor, if you are experiencing pain. The sooner you reach out, the greater likelihood you will recover better and faster with the right treatment.

+ 5 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. and, D. (2023). Definition & Facts for Kidney Stones. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/kidney-stones/definition-facts.
  2. Byron, J.K. (2019). Urinary Tract Infection. Veterinary Clinics of North America-small Animal Practice, [online] 49(2), pp.211–221. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cvsm.2018.11.005.
  3. Eckardt, A.J. and Baumgart, D.C. (2011). Viral Gastroenteritis in Adults. Recent Patents on Anti-infective Drug Discovery, [online] 6(1), pp.54–63. doi:https://doi.org/10.2174/157489111794407877.
  4. CDC (2023). The Symptoms of Norovirus. [online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/about/symptoms.html.
  5. and, D. (2023). Symptoms & Causes of Appendicitis. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/appendicitis/symptoms-causes.


Welcome to the Medical Inspiration Daily For Stronger Society (MIDSS). The site is designed to be a repository for instruments that are used to collect data from across the social sciences. Please use the site to discover instruments you can use in your own research.


Jocelyn is a biomedical engineer with extensive experience in stem cell and tissue engineering, computational biology, neurology, psychology, and fertility medicine. She also served as the Editor-In-Chief and other academic editorial roles in the Consilience Journal of Sustainable Development.

Help us rate this article

Thank you for your feedback

Keep in touch to see our improvement