What does it feel like to pass a kidney stone?

Most people know that passing a kidney stone is painful. But most don't really know what that means. Most think... yeah it hurts. But I have to tell you, its more than that. Some people even compare it to child birth. I don't know about that, but having passed some where in the vicinity of 40 or 50 stones I know something about it. Mind you, I'm not a world record holder, and I don't want to hold that record.

Symptoms of a passing a kidney stone

  • You may feel something like gas pressure and feel like passing gas will make the dull pain go away. It may even feel like sever gas pain.
  • Pain radiates from your lower back on one side, near where you would be able to tuck in your elbow into your side / back area.
  • You may see blood in your urine. It may make your urine look dark like Tea. In some cases it will be fresher and look red. If your urine is red and has a lot of blood, it may hurt to urinate. But this really has nothing to do with kidney stone pain. Blood does not really belong in your urethra and that's what is hurting and my be a symptom of a different problem.
  • The pain may be so sever that it forces you to double over.
  • Pain may cause hot and cold flashes and cause you to vomit.
The pain is caused when a stone is passing from your kidney to your bladder. There is a small tube that the stone passed through called the ureter. This tub is not intended to carry solids at all and so becomes blocked by the stone that's broken free from the lining of your kidney. Stones vary greatly in size and size really doesn't have a lot to do with the level of pain you will feel, it has more to do with how complete the blockage is. When the stone exits the ureter into your bladder there is a sudden relief. This is because the pressure has been taken off of your kidney. It's the pressure on the kidney that causes the pain. 

I don't know at what point this is dangerous or could cause a rupture but this NCBI page indicates that over 80% of ruptures are caused by a stone. My urologist was only concerned Once when I had medium sized stones. He recommended lythotripsy surgery on each kidney to break up the stones. This was following a diet high it protein that I was on. I believe that it was this that caused stone production in me. You can read more about it on this page, "How what you eat can help to prevent kidney stones". 

Lythotrypsy is a shock wave therapy that doesn't require cutting the patient open. This shock wave breaks up lager stones and loosens any others that are hanging around. However, this can only be preformed on one kidney at a time to allowing for healing. It has to be pretty traumatizing after all. There was bruising and some bleeding from the kidney. Not to mention the discomfort, after all a prize fighter just kidney punched you, well sort of. But I can't tell you much more than that, I was knocked out (anesthetized) for the procedure each time. If I remember correctly, the doctor told me that it's pretty hard on your kidney to have it done.

I can remember going to see a doctor for other ailments like a sprain and being asked how much it hurt on a scale of 1 to 10. I remember giving a guess to the pain and calling it a 6 or maybe a 7. Its funny how something like a kidney stone will reset that scale. Now, to me, a 9 is something that causes physical illness, yeah it has to make me vomit to be a 9, verge of vomiting is an 8. I'd have to nearly pass out for it to be a 10. That's the someone please shoot me level of pain. A sever sprain, that would be a 2 or 3 now. 

I was visiting my doctor after rupturing my Achilles playing soccer and of course he asked what the pain level was. My reply was something like a 2 or 3. He looked at me with surprise, but I was used to this reaction. I usually ask if they've ever passed a kidney stone, if not then I have to explain. But if they are familiar with that pain then there are no further questions. I'm not kidding when I say that kidney stones can really hurt! 

8mm x 6mm kidney stone
Here's a stone that I recently passed in comparison with the size of a dime. Mine are primarily calcium. From a distance, they look like grape-nuts cereal. Up close, they are literally crystals that sparkle under light with a dark spot where I imagine the stone was attached to the kidney. 

As large as this one is, it wasn't that painful to pass, maybe a 4. I've had smaller ones that hurt much more than this one. This one is about 8mm long and 6mm wide in a tear shape. I think its the largest one I've ever passed. Because of its shape I think that urine was able to pass by and so I never built up much pressure on the kidney.

Male friends that have seen this picture say, "Oh man, that must have hurt coming out!" They see the stone and think that's the part that must have hurt, the part where it shoots out. In fact, passing though the urethra doesn't hurt at all and is barely noticeable, at least for me that's the case.

There can be some pain when the stone gets hung up at the junction where the ejaculatory ducts are. This can also cause bleeding to occur. The pain isn't sever but very irritating at times. It can make you feel like you have a bladder infection or feel like you have to urinate constantly, and I mean constantly. You may find yourself wandering to the bathroom over and over again for nothing. That's usually when I guzzle another glass of water.

This one (pictured above) was hung up in that area for more than a week. It can be very maddening to have the stone stuck there at times. I start drinking lots during this time hoping to flush it out. As embarrassing as it is, it's worth mentioning that ejaculation can help move things along, but not always and may be the last thing on your mind to be honest. Exercise can also help get it moving, I can remember one being in that spot and riding my bike and playing tennis caused it to exit.


I wish I had lots of things to tell you that could prevent kidney stones. But if you're like me and you've been having them since you were a child, I started around 10, then you'll continue to have them. The article to prevent them that I mentioned above may help you as it has me. I think for those of us that have many stones have some kind of chemical imbalance but doctors haven't figured that out yet.

If you have a different experience with your kidney stones, please share it!

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