Kidney Stone Pain: Firsthand Recollections of the Experience

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I’ve never had a kidney stone. I don’t know what it’s like. That’s why I spent hours reading personal experiences to understand kidney stone pain better. Wikipedia told me the basics, and ArsTechnica, StraightDope, and Reddit gave me the personal stories and recollections that created an overall picture of how unpleasant and dreadfully painful kidney stones can be (lightly edited for language, content, and grammar).

“Was bad enough that I left the party and went to my office (closer than my house) and spent a large part of the night rolling back and forth on the floor in my cube debating calling my ex to come get me. She ended up laughing, then took me to the hospital. I still owe her for helping me.”

“It was what I can imagine a knife stuck in my back being twisted all around would feel like.”

“A female nurse told me it's the worst pain a man can ever feel, because a man can't go through labor. I had mine when I was 25; it looked like a coffee grain. Before it passed, I literally thought I was going to die. They gave me a morphine shot right in the vein, and it didn't do a thing. They followed that with Vicodin and I passed out. I woke up a few hours later feeling just ok.”

“Someone told me that the pain from a kidney stone is close to what a woman feels while having a baby. If that is true, I don't blame them at all for screaming.”

“I'm rocking back and forth on the gurney, and throwing up in the trash can. I remember them giving me some Demerol, but it didn't do anything for the pain, although it made me very foggy. I remember getting up and stumbling to the bathroom in a fog about every five minutes trying to pee. I remember my SIL lifting my nephew so he could kiss me on the forehead. I remember asking for something else besides Demerol, and there was a wonderful drug, started with a T, I think there was an X in there, that made all the pain go away. It was after that incident that I realized the protein-heavy Atkins diet was not for me.”

“There's a hidden benefit to experiencing kidney stones-- all other resulting pain you'll ever experience will now have a new benchmark, and will seem the lesser upon comparison. Honestly, after breaking my wrist in seven places, my first reaction was, "Well, at least this doesn't hurt as much as a kidney stone!””

“I forgot to mention the horror of having that thing removed. The doctor stuck some scope up my schwantzola where he looked through an eye piece while maneuvering around in my urethra. I was out on anesthetic when they put the scope in, but awake when they pulled the kidney stone out. They pulled it out with a mini claw device that reminds me of that game where you try to win stuffed animals out of the machine.”

What Causes Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are formed when there are more of certain chemicals in the urine than fluid to dilute forming a crystal. That crystal tries to make its way out of your system through the urinary tract. Sadly, the urethra is smaller than the stone, so it’s a painful process. Symptoms of kidney stones can include intense pain in the lower abdomen or back, blood in your urine, or a blockage that stops you from being able to urinate. If the pain you are feeling resembles one of the stories above, get to your healthcare provider fast. They can help with some of the pain and put a treatment plan together.

What is a Kidney Stone Made of?

Generally speaking,16 types of kidney stones can be created in the human body. And what they are made of can help you prevent additional kidney stones in the future.

The two major types of kidney stones are made up of calcium and uric acid. Calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate, and uric acid, along with struvite and cystine stones are the major groupings. Technical names like calcium oxalate monohydrate, hydroxyapatite, and magnesium hydrogen phosphate are a mouthful, to be sure, but knowing exactly what kind of kidney stone you have can give you the best clues for preventing kidney stones in the future.

Start by collecting your urine to capture the stone as it comes out. Or by using a coffee filter to catch the stone. After collecting it, take it to your physician; they can send it out for tests. Once the test results come back you two can craft a treatment plan to help prevent kidney stones in the future. In addition to your customized treatment plan, drinking more water, eating less meat, consuming more citrus, and reducing your salt intake are general guidelines that can help reduce the odds of kidney stones in the future.

4 Tips to Prevent Kidney Stone 

Drink More Water

Drinking water solves a plethora of problems Water helps your body flush out toxins, carries nutrients to your brain, and can prevent headaches and migraines. Staying hydrated with water can make it easier to pass smaller kidney stones, however, it will not help you pass stone more quickly.  If you have a kidney stone, drink enough water to urinate ten times a day. Consider drinking a tall glass of water when you wake up, before each meal, and after each exercise session.

Eat Less Animal Protein aka Meat

Meat is an excellent source of protein. In fact, an eight-ounce steak will give your body more than enough protein for the day. Protein helps you build and repair tissues, and is a building block for bones, muscles, skin, and blood. Protein is good. But too much protein can lead to kidney stones in two ways: (1) animal protein boosts uric acid which can lead to kidney stones; and (2) A high-protein diet reduces citrate levels. Citrate helps prevent stones from forming. Consider eating less meat.

Say Yes to Citrus

Oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. Eat. Drink. Consume. High amounts of citrate are found inside of citrus products, and citrate stops the production of kidney stones. Working additional amounts of citrus into your diet can be easily done. Consider adding lemon when you drink water in the morning, eating an orange with lunch, or having a small glass of half water, half grapefruit juice with dinner.

Say No to Salt

Salt causes calcium levels in urine to rise, making you more likely to grow a kidney stone. The average American consumes nearly five times more than the body needs, and excess salt in your diet can contribute to a kidney stone. Excess salt can also increase your blood pressure and your risk for a heart episode or stroke. Consider removing the salt shaker from the table and placing it in the cupboard instead.

The Final Word 

If a stone just won’t pass, it’s worth seeing a doctor because stones of a certain size just will NOT pass without the help of a physician intervening to reduce the size via special procedures.  The urethra is just not intended to stretch beyond a certain point, so checking with your physician to make sure you are making the right amount of progress toward passing your stone is the best thing to do.  Your physician can stay in touch with you as you work through things to make sure you are getting better.

When someone we love is hurting, we look for answers. We want to help. We want to fix their pain. But when it comes to kidney stones, there really isn’t much you can do to help someone. You can do their daily chores for them, encourage them to drink more lemon-infused water, and make sure they have Tylenol in their system, but be wary if so called "miracle-cures" people swear on the internet. Essential oils won’t cure a kidney stone, and a roller coaster won’t shake a kidney stone loose. If there is blood in your urine, or intense pain in your back or abdomen, visit a physician. Take care of yourself. And drink plenty of water.