As kidney stones pass through your ureter and bladder, they can cause a range of symptoms, such as severe pain in the side and back, painful urination, and blood in the urine.
It's important to seek medical attention if you suspect that you may have a kidney stone, as prompt treatment can help to alleviate pain and prevent other health risks. If your kidney stone is left untreated, it could lead to more serious complications like kidney damage or infections.
Treatment for kidney stones varies based on how large they are and where they’re located. Most kidney stones smaller than 5mm can be passed at home with little medical intervention. Here, we’ll explain what that process looks like, and some tips that can help make the process easier on you.
How to Flush a Kidney Stone
Flushing a kidney stone can be painful and uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do that could help speed up the process and alleviate painful symptoms. Let’s take a closer look at some of these strategies.
1. Drink Enough Water
Drinking enough water is one of the most important things you can do to flush a kidney stone. Not consuming enough water can increase the risk of minerals crystallizing and forming stones in your kidneys or urinary tract.
Increasing your water intake also increases the volume of urine you produce. This can help flush out small stones and prevent new ones from forming. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, women should drink approximately 2.7 liters of water a day, and men should drink approximately 3.7 liters. You should consider consuming more than that if it’s a hot season or you’re exercising regularly.
2. Use Pain Relievers to Reduce Kidney Stone Pain
Passing a kidney stone can be an extremely painful and uncomfortable experience. While drinking plenty of water can help pass the stone, taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen could help alleviate some of your pain and discomfort during the process. Make sure that you follow the recommended dosage if you use a pain reliever. Most pain relievers instruct users to take them for no longer than 10 days.
Keep in mind that if you have chronic kidney disease or reduced kidney function, it will most likely be safer to use acetaminophen than an NSAID like ibuprofen. NSAIDs can reduce the amount of blood—and therefore, oxygen—that reaches your kidneys. If your kidneys are at risk, an NSAID could potentially damage your kidney health.
Finally, don’t forget to talk with your physician and nephrologist about using pain relievers while passing the kidney stone. They’ll be able to give you specific advice on medications and ensure that you’re not facing extra risk due to other health conditions or allergies.
Related read: What Anti-Inflammatory is Safe for Kidneys?
3. Stay Active to Promote Kidney Stone Passage
There are a few additional techniques that could help you pass your kidney stone more quickly and comfortably. Remaining active through light activities like walking and biking may help stimulate urine flow post-exercise, helping you pass the kidney stone. However, you may want to avoid intense exercise, as it could aggravate the stone and make it more difficult and painful to pass.
In some cases, a warm bath or a heating pad applied to your lower back can help to ease discomfort and promote relaxation, relieving muscle tension and promoting urine flow.
4. Keep in Touch With Your Nephrologist and Physician
If your stone is too large to pass on its own or causing significant pain or other complications, medical intervention may be necessary. You could be prescribed medication that helps break up stones. Alternatively, your nephrologist may recommend lithotripsy, a non-invasive procedure that uses shock waves to break up stones, or surgery to remove the stone.
It's important to keep in touch with your healthcare provider while you’re trying to pass a kidney stone. This way, they’ll be able to determine the best approach for your situation and be prepared in the event that your treatment needs to be escalated.
FAQs About Passing a Kidney Stone
Let's take a look at some frequently asked questions about how to flush a kidney stone. Understanding the answers to these questions can help you better manage your symptoms, reduce your risk of complications, and take the necessary steps to prevent future kidney stones.
How Long Does it Take to Pass a Kidney Stone?
As you may have guessed, the time it takes to pass a kidney stone varies depending on its size and location. Most kidney stones are fairly small, about the size of a frozen pea or smaller. Stones of this size will usually pass within a week. However, larger stones may require medical interventions like lithotripsy or surgery.
What Should I Avoid Eating if I Have a Kidney Stone?
Calcium stones, which are the most common type of kidney stone, are often caused by consuming foods high in oxalate. This includes many foods like nuts, spinach, chocolate, and more. Reducing your consumption of these foods may help prevent further kidney stones, but always consult with your physician before making major changes to your diet.
Related read: Does Milk Cause Kidney Stones?
Can Exercise Help Pass a Kidney Stone?
While it’s not guaranteed to help, remaining active may encourage kidney stone passage. This is because, after exercising, your kidneys get to work filtering out the byproducts of muscle use, therefore increasing urine production. If you exercise, be sure to take it easy—while light cardio could help, intense exercise could potentially aggravate additional pain.
When Should I See a Doctor for my Kidney Stone Pain?
Passing a kidney stone is well known to be a painful experience, but don’t force yourself to be a superhero and endure it. If you’re experiencing severe pain, fever, chills, difficulty urinating, or finding blood in your urine, it may be a sign of infection or another complication. If you experience any of those symptoms, talk to your doctor or nephrologist as soon as possible.
About Milwaukee Nephrologists
Milwaukee Nephrologists is Southeast Wisconsin’s leader in kidney care. With over 15 locations throughout the Milwaukee metro area, we’re always close by. Our multidisciplinary team is home to some of the Midwest’s best transplant specialists and dietitians who can help craft a personalized care plan for your kidney health.
If you think you have a kidney stone and are looking for personalized guidance, our team may be able to help. To schedule a consultation, get in touch today!
Disclaimer: The information included in this article is for informational use only. Consult with your physician before making medical decisions.