What to Do About Kidney Stones
By Randi Morse
A friend recently contacted me asking for advice. She'd just been diagnosed with kidney stones, a painful, potentially dangerous condition. The reason she contacted me, even though I'm not a licensed physician or even an expert in kidney stones, is because I have had serious kidney stone problems for the past four years. I've had multiple surgeries and health conditions that connect with the stones, and the fight is still ongoing! The good news is that most people don't have the same level of difficulty that I have. Kidney stones can be very painful but the problem tends to resolve itself on its own most of the time.
Urinary Tract Anatomy
It's a good idea to understand basic terms for the urinary tract when discussing kidney stones.
- Kidneys - The two organs that filter extra water, and waste, from the blood in your body
- Ureters - The two tubes that transport urine from the kidney to the bladder
- Bladder - The organ that holds the urine before elimination
- Urethra - The tube through which the urine passes from the bladder out of the body
Kidney Stone Pain
One of the most common complaints about kidney stones is the pain that is associated with them. The pain is often most apparent when the stone is traveling from the kidney down the ureter. It can also be painful when it is in the urethra. Physicians will generally focus on helping to keep their patients comfortable, making pain-control their top priority. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID's) are often the first choice of pain relievers, but if the patient's pain level is very high, doctors may recommend opioids as a temporary solution to relieve the pain.
Stones that are less than 5 mm in size tend to pass on their own; larger stones, like those that are 10 mm in size, often require medical treatment to help the stones pass. Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) is a common treatment. Doctors use shock waves to break up the stone into smaller pieces, making it easier for them to pass. Extremely large kidney stones, or those made of a harder calcium material, may require a percutaneous nephrolithotripsy. In this surgery, a urologist will create a small incision in the lower back and then break up the stone, flushing the remaining pieces out utilizing an external tube or an internal stent.
If you are experiencing pain in your side that eventually radiates to your back or down your legs, do not hesitate to contact your physician. The sooner kidney stones are caught and addressed, the better.
To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Derby, Kans.