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How Painful are Kidney Stones? And other facts about kidney stones

How Painful are Kidney Stones? And other facts about kidney stones


Your kidneys are constantly at work. Every day, the kidneys process over 180 litres of blood and sift out nearly 2 litres of waste products and water. Healthy kidneys filter through approximately half a cup of blood a minute to remove waste, excess water and produce urine. The urine then flows from your kidneys to your bladder. 

Your bladder, kidneys, and ureters are all a part of your urinary tract.  The waste removal process the kidneys perform is vital, without it there would be a build-up of toxins in the bloodstream and lymph fluid. This could potentially poison the body and lead to tissue damage. The toxins, excess water, uncontrolled pH, blood pressure, and electrolytes can also put enormous strain on the blood vessels and heart.


Kidney stones (also called renal calculi, nephrolithiasis or urolithiasis) are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys.


Passing a kidney stone is said to be some of the most severe physical pain a person can experience. The pain usually starts once the stone has migrated from the kidney into the ureter, the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. The pain is usually sudden and quite severe on one side of your back and it can cause immediate nausea and vomiting. This sudden pain will begin to ebb and flow after the first few hours, gradually getting better after a few days.


Diet, excess body weight, some medical conditions, and certain supplements and medications are among the many causes of kidney stones. Kidney stones can affect any part of your urinary tract — from your kidneys to your bladder. Often, stones form when the urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together.


Sharp Pain

Pain is the most widely experienced symptom of kidney stones. The medical term for this type of pain is renal colic. Where in the body the stone is lodged determines where the pain is felt most strongly. It is common to feel pains in one or both of the sides of the lower back, but if the stone is lower down, pain can intensify in the groin. Sometimes the pain starts in the back and moves around to the stomach, causing severe spasms or continuous throbbing.

Feeling Sick

The presence of a kidney stone can lead to nausea and vomiting in some instances. Nausea may be a reaction to the pain. Vomiting can lead to dehydration and loss of essential nutrients and electrolytes, and should always be medically evaluated if it lasts more than two days.

Profuse Sweating

People with kidney stones can break out in heavy sweats even when they are not exerting themselves. This sign can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting and may occur due to the general discomfort the body is experiencing.

Bloody Urine

Bloody urine can be a frightening sign of a kidney stone. This symptom may not always occur, and usually depends on how far down in the urinary tract the stone has gone. Blood in the urine is not invariably linked to kidney stones and could be due to a more or less serious event or condition. It is a good idea to see a doctor if this sign presents.

Foul-Smelling Urine

Cloudy urine that smells more noxious than usual can indicate a kidney stone. When a kidney stone lodges in the urinary tract, bacteria can build up behind it and cause a urinary tract infection. Around 8% of people with kidney stones develop an infection related to the stone. This is more common in women. One symptom of a urinary tract infection is foul-smelling urine and urine that’s cloudier than normal.

Urinating Frequently

Frequent urination — or at least an urge to urinate — can indicate a kidney stone and may accompany a stinging sensation when urinating. These symptoms are most likely to appear when the kidney stone moves into the lower urinary tract. Like many other symptoms, these are not exclusive to kidney stones and may represent a different issue such as a urinary tract infection. If a kidney stone is a cause, these symptoms may last for longer than 24 hours.

Frequent Urinary Tract Infections

Many people develop urinary tract infections (UTI), which can cause mild discomfort to extreme pain. Recurring UTIs could be a symptom of kidney stones. A doctor can distinguish between an infection caused by stones and one caused by other factors.


Kidney stones can sometimes cause an affected individual to become feverish and exhibit flu-like symptoms. Though this is rarely a diagnostic symptom of the condition, fever accompanied by lower back and stomach pains and other symptoms listed here can point to kidney stones. Often, this symptom is due to infection in the kidneys, a potential complication of a kidney stone.

Painful Sitting

If a kidney stone becomes quite large, the person can experience pain when sitting or lying down for extended periods of time. This occurs when the seated position places pressure on the stone, causing it to press into sensitive organs. This symptom is especially problematic if it makes sleep difficult, as the body needs rest to efficiently break down and expel the stone.


Treatment for kidney stones varies, depending on the type of stone and the cause.

Small stones with minimal symptoms

Most small kidney stones won't require invasive treatment. You may be able to pass a small stone by:

Drinking water. Drinking as much as 2 to 3 quarts (1.8 to 3.6 liters) a day will keep your urine dilute and may prevent stones from forming. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, drink enough fluid — ideally mostly water — to produce clear or nearly clear urine.

Pain relievers. Passing a small stone can cause some discomfort. To relieve mild pain, your doctor may recommend pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve).

Medical therapy. Your doctor may give you a medication to help pass your kidney stone. This type of medication, known as an alpha blocker, relaxes the muscles in your ureter, helping you pass the kidney stone more quickly and with less pain.

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