How to Pass a Kidney Stone Without Invasive Treatment


Pouring water into a glass

If you’re experiencing painful kidney stones, you’re not alone.

In fact, according to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), over half a million people get kidney stones each year, with more than one in every 10 people affected.

Depending on the size and location of a kidney stone within the body, you may be able to pass a kidney stone at home without any invasive treatment.

In this article, we’ll explore methods for passing small kidney stones without surgery and strategies to prevent the formation of kidney stones.

How to Pass a Kidney Stone

Even small kidney stones can cause significant pain and discomfort. In fact, most people with kidney stones report excruciating pain.

As we mentioned above, small kidney stones can be passed without invasive treatment, which could mean you’ll feel better soon.

Here are some steps you can take to pass a kidney stone:

Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication

Even if a kidney stone is small, most people experience pain on one side of the body between the stomach and the back.

As the stones pass down the ureter and toward the bladder, they may cause pain in the groin area.

OTC pain medication may help relieve the pain associated with passing kidney stones. This medication can include:

  • Ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil)

  • Naproxen (Aleve)

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

These medications can also relax your muscles, making it easier to pass the stone.

Asking your doctor about alpha-blockers

Healthcare providers can prescribe a medication called an alpha-blocker — like tamsulosin (Flomax) or a combination of dutasteride and tamsulosin (Jalyn) — to help you if you are suffering from kidney stones.

This medication relaxes the muscles in the ureter, which can help your body to pass the kidney stone more quickly and with less discomfort.

While you may want to try to pass a kidney stone on your own, seeing a physician can be helpful as they can provide medications and advice on how to pass the stone more easily.

Diluting your urine by drinking water

While it is generally always a good idea to stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water, it is especially important when trying to pass a kidney stone.

Drinking enough fluids can help flush out the stone and potentially reduce the risk of it getting caught in the urinary tract, which can cause complications.

Try drinking up to three quarts (3.6 liters) of water daily while trying to pass a kidney stone unless your doctor suggests otherwise.

You should also limit the amount of coffee, tea, and cola you drink while trying to pass a kidney stone, as these beverages contain caffeine.

Caffeine causes you to lose fluid quickly, which can lead to dehydration.

Physical activity

Exercising might sound like the last thing you want to do if you’re experiencing pain from a kidney stone.

However, physical activity may help a kidney stone move through the urinary tract faster.

You should not overexert yourself when you have kidney stones, as this can result in more pain and discomfort.

Avoid high-impact physical activities like running and opt for lower-impact exercise like walking or slow biking.

You may also want to consider activities that impact the abdomen and lower back, such as pilates or yoga.

Ensure that you get plenty of rest between periods of physical activity. If you’re unsure about what exercises are safe while you have a kidney stone, speak to a healthcare provider first.

Apple cider vinegar

Drinking apple cider vinegar, which contains acetic acid, may help dissolve kidney stones and ease the pain associated with passing them.

It’s important not to drink apple cider vinegar alone to dissolve kidney stones.

Instead, you should dilute it by adding two tablespoons (around 0.5 fluid ounces) of apple cider vinegar to six to eight ounces (up to 6.8 fluid ounces) of water.

Drinking apple cider vinegar alone or consuming more than one glass of this mixture daily can damage tooth enamel, cause acid reflux, or result in a sore throat.

It’s important to note that this mixture can interact with certain medications, such as insulin and diuretics, so it’s advised to consult a medical professional before trying this remedy.

When to Seek Medical Attention for Kidney Stones

It can be dangerous to try to pass large kidney stones without treatment. Larger stones can harm the urinary tract and cause internal bleeding.

Seek medical attention if you experience symptoms that include:

  • Pain that doesn’t resolve

  • Blood in the urine

  • Fever and chills

  • Nausea and vomiting

How to Remove Large Kidney Stones

Sound wave therapy

Depending on the location of your kidney stone, your doctor may recommend extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL).

This effective treatment uses sound waves to break the stones into smaller pieces so they can be passed through urination.

Surgery

If your kidney stones are too large and hazardous to pass naturally, they may require surgical removal.

Ureteroscope

This is when a thin tube, known as a ureteroscope, is passed through the urethra and bladder to reach the ureter. The medical professional performing this procedure will use specialized instruments to break the stone into pieces that can be expelled through urination.

7 Tips to Prevent Kidney Stones

The best treatment approach is preventing kidney stones from forming in the first place. Effective prevention methods include:

Staying hydrated

Drinking enough water or consuming foods high in liquid is essential to preventing the formation of kidney stones, particularly in those with a history of this condition.

You need to be able to pass 2.1 quarts (67.2 fluid ounces) of urine per day if you want to prevent kidney stones.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to drink as much water as you would if you were trying to pass a stone.

To do this, you would need to consume eight 10-ounce glasses (2.5 liquid quarts) of water per day to produce that amount of urine.

Drinking fluids regularly throughout the day is important, even when you don’t feel thirsty.

Eating enough calcium-rich foods

Diets that are too low in calcium can increase the risk of kidney stone formation in the body. You may want to consult a dietitian to find out how to plan a diet that decreases the likelihood of kidney stones.

Incorporating lemons into your diet

Lemons contain a chemical called citrate, which can prevent calcium stones from forming in the body. This chemical can also break up smaller stones so they can pass more quickly.

Adding lemon juice to water is a good choice, but you can also eat lemons or drink fresh lemonade. Citrate can also be found in limes.

Paying attention to your sodium intake

Consuming too much sodium can increase the amount of calcium in your body, which can result in the formation of kidney stones.

A high sodium diet can also lead to other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

It is best to aim to consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (one-third of a teaspoon) per day if you want to avoid the formation of kidney stones and other health problems.

Reducing animal protein consumption

Consuming protein is typically considered part of a healthy and balanced diet.

However, consuming too much animal protein increases your risk of developing kidney stones. These foods cause uric acid stones to form.

Common animal protein sources include meat, eggs, and seafood.

If you have a history of kidney stones or are at high risk of developing them, try not to eat more than six ounces of animal protein per day.

Limiting foods high in oxalate

If your doctor diagnoses you with calcium oxalate stones, you may need to reduce foods high in oxalate. These foods include fruits, vegetables like rhubarb and leeks, canned fruit salads, and tomato soups.

Taking medications as prescribed

If you have visited a doctor for kidney stones, taking medications as prescribed to treat this condition is important. The type of medication you’re prescribed will depend on the type of kidney stones you have.

Calcium stones

To prevent these stones from forming, your doctor may prescribe a diuretic that helps you to pass more urine. This may include a phosphate-containing preparation or a thiazide diuretic.

Uric acid stones

Your healthcare provider may prescribe allopurinol (Zyloprim or Aloprim) to reduce the level of uric acid in your urine and blood.

Struvite stones

These stones are formed by bacteria that cause infection. Your doctor may suggest actions like increasing fluid intake to keep your urine clear of bacteria. They may also prescribe an antibiotic to address the bacteria.

Cystine stones

Your doctor may prescribe medication to make an amino acid called cystine more soluble in your urine and to ensure that your urine is as diluted as possible.

Where Can I Learn More About Kidney Stones?

While LifeMD offers care to patients with chronic conditions, kidney stones are a serious condition that requires ongoing specialty care and extensive work from an in-person healthcare provider.

This being said, if you’re concerned about your kidney health, LifeMD may be able to help.

LifeMD can offer guidance on ways to maintain healthy habits that may support the management of your condition and avoid further complications.

Additionally, a licensed medical provider may be able to treat other conditions contributing to kidney stones.

Your healthcare provider may offer guidance on effective ways to help you stay healthy and/or prescribe the appropriate medication.

Make an appointment today to get started.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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