Temporary kidney pain is associated with long distance running. Should you be concerned?


The Kidney Issue

By Edmund Arellano

A recently published study revealed a rise in kidney-related injuries among marathon and long-distance runners - but it's only a short-term injury. Researchers studied the serum creatinine levels, kidney cells, and protein levels in the urine of 22 runners by comparing their samples before, immediately after, and 24 hours after a marathon.

The results were certainly staggering. 82% of the otherwise healthy and fit runners showed signs of acute kidney injury. Within 24-48 hours, however, the pain associated with the injury began to fade.

female kidney
Kidney injuries are pretty common among long-distance runners.  It's especially prevalent in runner's who are not properly hydrated or taking NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen).  This problem can be worse for people with existing kidney-related issues.

It could only be temporary, but still...

In early January, one of our NeoEndurance staff members suffered the very same issue.  While training for a marathon, he noticed a severe "punching" feeling in his right kidney the morning after a struggling 8-mile run in the rain.  His first thought?  Kidney stones.  When the pain wouldn't subside by the following morning, he visited his physician who immediately reasoned the symptoms with a bacterial infection.  She took samples of his urine and an x-ray of his kidney's.  By the time the results came back a few days later, he was already back to normal.

So what causes this problem?  According to the study, strenuous long-term exercise does.  The combination of an increase of core temperature, dehydration, and decreased blood flow to the kidneys likely contributed to the short-term injury.  The longer you run, the more oxygen you need so your body delivers oxygen away from the organs and into the muscles and skin, which deprives your kidneys the oxygen it needs to function normally.

Should you stop running?

Absolutely not.  The study emphasizes that while these injuries are common, they're also short-term.  Proper hydration and staying off those NSAIDs can help you recover quickly.  The American Heart Association, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the National Institute for Health (NIH) still recommends 2.5 hours of exercise per week.  That's just 21 minutes a day, folks.  That's it.  NeoEndurance recommends you seek out a challenge and sign up for a race.  Signing up often gives one the sense of commitment, which means you'll push yourself to achieve greater results.


Have you ever painful kidneys after a long distance run?  Tell us about it below.