Kidney stones can be extremely painful and often require medical intervention to pass. However, there are several things you can do at home to help speed up the stone passing process. In this article, we will discuss what kidney stones are, common symptoms, and most importantly, provide tips on how to help kidney stones pass quickly and reduce pain.
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones form when minerals and salts in the urine crystallize and stick together. The most common types of kidney stones are calcium stones, uric acid stones, struvite stones, and cystine stones. Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of sand or grow much larger, even as big as a golf ball.
Small kidney stones may pass through the urinary tract on their own with little pain or discomfort. However, larger stones can get stuck in the ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder), causing severe pain in the back, side, lower abdomen, or groin.
Common symptoms of kidney stones
The most common symptom of kidney stones is severe pain that comes in waves. The pain often starts suddenly when a stone moves in the urinary tract and blocks the flow of urine. Other symptoms may include:
- Pain that radiates from the side and back to the lower abdomen and groin
- Painful urination
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate
- Feeling of urine not emptying completely
Tips to help kidney stones pass faster
If you have been diagnosed with a kidney stone less than 5 mm in size, these tips can help encourage it to pass sooner:
1. Drink plenty of fluids
Staying hydrated is key to passing a kidney stone quickly. Drinking more fluids, especially water, dilutes the minerals and salts in urine that cause stones. Aim for at least 2-3 liters of fluid per day.
2. Limit sodium intake
A low sodium diet can reduce calcium excretion and prevent more stones from forming. Avoid processed foods, deli meats, chips, and adding extra salt to meals.
3. Eat more citrus fruits and berries
Citrus fruits and berries increase levels of citrate in urine, which helps block stone-forming chemicals. Try adding lemon, lime, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, or blueberries to your diet.
4. Increase your magnesium intake
Magnesium helps prevent calcium from binding with other minerals to form stones. Foods high in magnesium include spinach, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, kefir, almonds, black beans, avocado, and bananas.
5. Take over-the-counter pain relievers
To help ease painful urination and spasms, take OTC pain meds like ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen. Use heating pads on the back or abdomen for relief as well.
6. Try smooth muscle relaxants
Prescription medications like tamsulosin (Flomax) and nifedipine relax ureter muscles to facilitate stone passage. Alpha blockers also relax the muscles.
7. Get moving with light activity
Light exercise like walking can help stones move through the urinary tract. However, strenuous activities may increase pain. Modify activity as needed and rest when in pain.
8. Drink stone-breaking juices
Certain juices contain citrates and antioxidants that may help break down stones naturally. Try drinking lemon juice, orange juice, or apple cider vinegar diluted with water.
9. Use warm compresses
Applying a heating paid or warm compress to your back or abdomen can provide relief when passing a stone. Heat helps relax muscles and reduce spasms.
10. Try yoga poses for relief
Gentle yoga poses can ease pain and relax muscles. Try the child’s pose, cat-cow pose, supine twist, and legs up the wall pose. Always modify poses as needed.
11. Take sitz baths
A warm bath targeting just the hips and buttocks area can induce relaxation. Add Epsom salts to soothe pain and magnesium may help stones pass.
12. Use ureteral stents if needed
If a stone does not pass on its own, doctors may surgically insert a tiny stent between the kidney and bladder to hold the ureter open. This can provide relief and aid stone passage.
13. Consider lithotripsy for larger stones
If stones are larger, doctors may recommend lithotripsy. This noninvasive procedure uses sonic waves to break up stones into passable fragments.
14. Discuss surgical options if necessary
For very large or stubborn stones that won’t pass, minimally invasive surgery may be required. There are several outpatient procedures available to manually remove stones.
When to see a doctor
Make sure to consult your healthcare provider if:
- You experience severe flank pain, nausea, vomiting, or fever – could indicate infection
- You are unable to pass urine
- Pain is uncontrolled with medication
- Stones recur frequently
- Stones do not pass after 30 days of home treatment
A doctor can help manage pain, prevent complications, and decide if further treatment is needed for stubborn kidney stones.
How long does it take to pass a kidney stone?
The timeline for passing a kidney stone can vary significantly depending on the size and location of the stone. Here is an overview:
|Time to pass
|Less than 5 mm
|Likely to pass within 1-2 weeks
|May take up to 4 weeks to pass
|Larger than 10 mm
|Unlikely to pass without intervention
Factors like stone location, smooth muscle function, and fluid intake can also impact how quickly a stone will pass. With medication and home treatment, small stones less than 5 mm can sometimes pass in a few days. Larger stones over 10 mm have a very low chance of passing spontaneously.
Kidney stones can be excruciatingly painful. To help speed up stone passage, focus on getting plenty of fluids, limiting sodium, increasing magnesium and citrates, managing pain, and trying home remedies like heat, yoga, juices, and sitz baths. Most small stones less than 5 mm can pass within 1-2 weeks using conservative treatments. However, larger stones often require interventions like lithotripsy or surgery for removal. Seek medical attention if pain becomes severe or you cannot pass urine. With the right approach tailored by your doctor, you can help facilitate the stone’s exit and find relief more quickly.