Any seasoned sufferer of kidney stones knows the intense pain that accompanies them. For a first-timer, an attack can be frightening, especially if you don't know what is causing the pain. For some, kidney stone pain may feel like a cramp but for others it may feel as if the end is near. Luckily, there are ways to manage the pain and stay out of the emergency room during an attack.
Kidney stone attacks tend to last for a short time. You will feel a radiating pain in your back above your hip that may extend down towards your bladder. It may feel like a muscle cramp or it may feel as if someone is literally stabbing you in the back. The pain depends on your personal pain tolerance, the size of the stone and how quickly it moves.
The pain is due to the stone blocking the passage of the urinary system. As the stone passes through your system, it must move through small spaces. When the stone is in a small area, urine builds up behind it, causing pressure and extreme pain. Once the stone makes it way through the area and the blockage is released, the pain will subside almost immediately. This is the key thing to remember when you are experiencing pain. Knowing that the pain will eventually disappear will keep you out of the emergency room. Going to the emergency room or doctor’s office every time you feel an attack gets expensive, especially since attacks last for only 30 minutes to two hours.
If you have had a kidney stone attack once before, you can always feel the pain of an attack beginning before it becomes intense. You may feel cramping in your back or you may simply feel sore. Everyone has a different initial pain feeling and after one attack, you will become very familiar with yours.
Once you feel pain beginning, go home if you are in a public place. If your doctor has prescribed pain medication for you, take it as soon as you feel the beginning of pain. Many people think they should lie down, but walking and keeping your body moving can encourage the stone to move faster. Pace around your house as much as possible and drink plenty of fluids. You should be drinking plenty of fluids even when you are not having an attack in order to flush the stone from your system.
If the pain becomes so intense that you can no longer walk or move, try lying down in a comfortable position. Fetal position is the most comfortable way to lie for most people, but your stomach or your back may be better for you.
When the pain becomes unbearable, just remind yourself that it will be over soon. Resist the temptation to go to the emergency room. Chances are, by time you get there and sign in, the pain will have subsided.
When To See the Doctor
If the pain does not subside after two or more hours, you may need to see your doctor. The stone may be stuck and could pain you for days. If this is your third or fourth attack and the stone has not passed from your system, you definitely need to see your doctor. The stone may be too large to pass on its own or may be stuck in a certain area of the urinary tract.
Your doctor will use extracorporeal shock-wave lithotripsy to treat a large stone. This is done by using ultrasound waves to break the stone into smaller pieces. The pieces will then pass on their own. He may also try percutaneous nephrolithotomy, which is removing the stone through an incision made in the patient's back.
The doctor will remove stones that are stuck in the ureter. She will use a ureteroscope to enter the ureter and remove the stone.