Dopers who've had kidney stones, what do you wish you'd known ahead of time?

So, after spending nine hours doubled over in pain in the E.R. I learned that—despite what it felt like—none of my internal organs were about to rupture like the exploding Death Star. I just have a kidney stone, and apparently it’s still rattling around in there.

Anybody here who’s been through this have advice on how to make it through the inevitable horror show that awaits? The doctor said the stone would probably make another attempt on my life within the next two weeks. I’m questioning whether it’s even worth going back to the hospital when it returns. At the moment, my best plan for dealing with the pain is drinking heavily, although I really don’t like alcohol.

For those of you who’ve passed a stone, is there anything you’d do differently? Anything you wish you’d known going into it that would have helped?

Don’t lay around the house, it’ll only make the cramps worse. Get out and do something. Granted, you may not want to spend 7 hours at the mall, but if you’re not in active pain, go ahead and do some yardwork, go for a walk, do something to stay moving. Partially, as I said, so you don’t cramp up, but also to help rattle it around. The problem is that it hurts when it’s not moving, you need to get it moving.
One of mine took a few days to pass, I spent the time mowing the lawn, pacing the house, drinking water and even going in to work (but left as soon as I needed to pee, didn’t want to do that there).

Something that I thought was odd, when it finally passed, it just popped out. That was the least painful part, at least for me, and it was big enough that I could take a picture of it.

Also, take your pain pills. A lot of people prefer not to, but they’ll take your mind off the fear that the next time you pee, it’s going to be like shards of glass coming out.

ETA, and expect a lot of war stories. For the rest of your life, every person you mention this too will tell you about theirs.

Oh, I am an unapologetic wuss. I’ll take any pain pill they’ll give me. Screw stoicism.

And I’m already getting the war stories. Today, a coworker mentioned “blood and pus”, which I sincerely hope was just an exaggeration.

Um, that I was going to get a kidney stone?

/ducks and runs

Take the pain pills because it’s easier to manage that level of pain if you get ahead of it. It’s a lot harder when the nurse is coaching you in Lamaze breathing to get you through the pain until the doctor approves pain meds. I remember it like it was yesterday. Memories…

Drink a lot of water. Lots and lots. You definitely want a lot of fluid going through the pipes, so nothing gets stuck.

If you see blood in your urine, or underwear, call the doctor. The stone can slice things up. Let your doctor make the call on whether they need to see you or not.

If you can’t pass urine, you need to see the doctor now. If you can reach your regular doctor immediately, call. If not, go to the ER. If you need to pee, but you can’t, that could mean that your ureter is blocked. This can cause serious issues.

They may give you a catch cup with a strainer at the bottom. They want you to catch the stone so that they can analyze it. This is a good idea. Not all stones are the same, and the treatment varies depending on type.

On these war stories, I’m a conscientious objector. When I passed a kidney stone, it was so pain-free I didn’t notice I had passed it until I saw it in the strainer. So while pain is certainly a common experience, it’s not universal.

But I assume you were in pain leading up to it, or you wouldn’t have knowing it was coming. Like I said, that’s how the actual passing of mine was, it felt like it just slid right out. But leading up to that, I thought I was going to die (or worried I wouldn’t die).
That reminds me, if you feel sick, either from the pain killers or the pain, see if your doc will call in a script for Zofran or one of the other anti-nausea meds.

Personally, I like to stay at least 2 or 3 days ahead of it.

There are two stages to passing a kidney stone, and believe it or not the first stage is the worst. When the stone is in your ureter (between kidney and bladder), the pain is a cramping pain, likely severe. Once it reaches your bladder the next part is, IMHO, less painful. This is the part where it exits through the urethra. During this phase there might be some sharp pain while it’s actually passing, but not the horrible cramping pain from a stone stuck in a ureter, and it only lasts a few seconds.

As far as drugs go, toradol works way better than narcotics, at least it did for me. Not only will it relieve the pain, but it reduces inflammation and spasm in the ureter that will help the stone pass. The important thing to remember with toradol is to not take it for more than 5 days total.

The first time I was at the hospital for kidney stones, they came in with a needle, I asked what it was and she said (before I knew the diagnosis) ‘you have a kidney stone, here’s some morphine’ and it it went. A few minutes later she came in with another needle, I asked what it was and she said ‘it’s like a thousand times more potent than Tylenol’, I asked if it was an NSAID and she said ‘it Torodol’, I asked again if it was an NSAID and she said yes as she was pushing it in to the IV line. I told her I wish she hadn’t done that, I get really bad heartburn from NSAIDS, she said I’d be fine since it was injected so it bypasses the GI tract, I told her that it’s not going to matter, she told me if it’s an issue she can give me a GI cocktail, which I told her probably wouldn’t work. It didn’t, my heartburn was awful and it was a good two days before I could talk normal again, my stomach/esophagus/throat were killing me the entire time.
I don’t know why she wouldn’t tell me ahead of time. Due to that and another similar issue, I have Torodol on my allergy list. I’m not allergic to them, but another doc suggested I put it on there just to slow down the medical staff in future visits.

I had several, unfortunately. The first time, I guessed correctly what it was, thanks to the many threads I had read on this board describing the experience.

The duration and level of pain was highly variable. The first one was the worst and the longest, it took more than 10 days to pass, even though it wasn’t big enough in the doctor’s opinion to require ultrasounds to break it inside. Once it reached the bladder, there was no further problem. The two next ones passed easily, and I had bouts of pain only for half a day and one day. The last one was almost as long as the first, but the pain was still bad but significantly more bearable. On the other hand, it didn’t get out easily after it reached the bladder, so I kept having pain (much less than before it reached the bladder, though) and peed blood for a couple days.

Apart from the pain pills, I have no advice. Well, in fact, I would have one, but it’s going to be rejected on this board : don’t drink much. You see, I discovered that the standard medical advice for kidney stones in France and the USA is exactly the opposite : in the USA, you’re told to drink a lot (to “flush out” the stone). In France, you’re told to reduce your water intake (because it wouldn’t actually help it going out, but it might damage the kidneys if/while the stone blocks the passage of urine). I found out that the pain seemed to be more bearable if I drank less.

In fact, I found out that even for a problem that is as common and seemingly as simple (a mere plumber’s problem, something is stuck in a tube) doctors don’t know that much about it (which shows that we’re a long way from having figured out everything in medecine). For instance, they don’t really know why it hurts so much, or rather there are several conflicting theories about it (because the stone damages the walls of the ureter while passing, or because it cause cramps, or because it raises the pressure in the kidneys…) which seems to mean that they don’t know when it hurts, either (when the stone is moving, or when it’s stuck, or when your body tries to make it move).

You guys are great! Thank you.

Like I say, I have no aversion to drugging myself into a drooling stupor if it will help with the pain. Pills? Yes, please. Want to inject something? Here’s a vein. Is that a permanent marker? Gimme a sniff. What kind of toad is that? Let me lick it. My main worry is actually getting those meds. When I went to the E.R., I had been in severe pain for nearly ten hours, and it had actually subsided when they finally got around to giving me a small dose of fentanyl that made me feel mildly ok for half an hour. I’m trying to get in to see a urologist, and hopefully they can prescribe something ahead of time. I’ll ask about the Toradol. Thanks for the suggestion!

clairobscur, I had the same thought you did. If the pain is caused by the blockage, isn’t urine backing up in my kidneys a really bad idea? I’m drinking a lot of water, and they have me on Flomax to make me pee more. I’m not looking forward to it, but hopefully this will be done with sooner rather than later.

This was my experience as well. The real pain is when the stone is moving from the kidney to the bladder. The actual experience of passing it out during urination was, for me, completely painless, and I was a bit surprised to see the stone in the strainer after it came out. So you may be over the worst of it.

While searching for how much water you’re told to drink over here (it seems to be less than one liter/day, which is what I seemed to remember), I found a Swiss medical paper that stated exactly as much : the debate regarding water restriction vs hyper hydration is still open, and the current medical literature doesn’t allow to decide one way or another, but water restriction is more often suggested because it reduces pain :

While searching, I also read that for relatively big stone, it was better to stay in bed and rest (no clue if it’s good advice, I mention it because another poster advised to be active). Personally, I was unable to, I was often pacing around, and I now remember that my doctor told me that people being unable to stay in place was one of the symptoms that allowed to tell apart a kidney stone from some other painful condition (can’t remember which one) where people just didn’t want to move.

Also, I had followed an advice I read here : taking a cold shower (which eventually turned into rather running cold water on my belly) during the bouts of pain. It seemed to help a bit, possibly simply because the cold sensation distracted me from the pain.

So is crawling into the hospital. Someone was telling me that her husband was in horrible pain, she took him to the ER with no idea what was going on. When she pulled up near the door, he got out of the car and crawled towards the entrance. The docs told them that the site of a husband literally crawling out of the car towards the building isn’t uncommon for kidney stones.
Another common symptom is the waves of pain, when I had my first one, before I knew what it was, I was getting things done in between them. In fact, it came on so suddenly I thought maybe I dislocated a rib. Each time the pain would back off, I’d get something done. Take a shower, cry in bed for a while, drop my kid off, sit in my car swearing, drive to the hospital, almost stopped a few blocks away because of the pain (but I figured it would be faster to drive the rest of the way than call someone to pick me up, but I probably shouldn’t have been driving).

This was also my experience (twice).

No advice to offer that hasn’t been stated above so all you’ll get from me is sympathy. Been there, done that. Think I’d rather get kicked in the jewels a couple of times before I go through another one. At least a kick is once and done and not an 8 hour ordeal in the ER.

I’m going through this right now.

The pain started about 4 days before I finally went to the ER, but it wasn’t terrible pain - just really really uncomfortable.
Had a CT scan at the ER and was diagnosed with a 4mm stone close to the beginning of the ureter. I was sent home with a prescription for Flomax, hydrocodone and 600mg Ibuprofen tabs.

I’m pretty sure that the stone is still in the ureter but so far, the ibuprofen and hydrocodone have pretty much stopped any pain.

I’ve read that a 4mm stone can take as long as 20 days(!) to pass.

Twenty days!? Daaaaaaamn. Mine’s 5mm, I have no idea where it’s currently hanging out, and they didn’t send me home with crap. Thankfully, I haven’t been in any pain since then. But I know it’s there, waiting. I didn’t see the CT scan, but I’m betting it just shows the stone sitting there, glaring, with a thought bubble above its head reading “Soon…soon”.

9 by 11 mm stone, no symptoms until the day I was curled up.on the floor vomiting with the pain. It wasn’t going to pass on its own so they needed to go in to get it. This involved have g a stent in my ureter for two weeks to stretch it enough to get the tiny drilling team into there. I’m not even going to mention the uti.

Drinking a lot more water now, often with lemon juice.

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I just passed my first stone Sunday morning. From the first pains to the final passing took about 3 weeks or so. I had some pain in my side at first but thought it was gas.

It was not horrible and went away by the morning so I thought nothing of it. Then 2 days later I started feeling like the way my wife describes a UTI. As a man I’m low risk but type 2 diabetes does increase the risk so I was tested and came back negative.

I had not connected the back pain and the UTI symptoms until another week had passed and I woke up at 3am with screaming pains. A trip to the ER and some quick drugs solved the pain and a CT scan diagnosed the stone.

I really only had 1 bad night of pain after that but the hospital had gifted me with an Rx for morphine so all was well.

All told I had 3 bouts of pain, and only one horrible one. The actual passage was painless. I only noticed a bit of a pulse as it passed through the urethra. All told, my gall bladder issues were much worse.