What’s The Best Position for Kidney Stone Pain?

Thu, Jun 09, 2022

What’s The Best Position for Kidney Stone Pain?

Most everyone who has experienced a kidney stone will agree that the stones—or more accurately, the experience of passing them—is excruciatingly painful. Many patients even equate the discomfort with childbirth.

The intense pain caused by the microscopic calcium deposits can make even the most basic daily tasks seem impossible. Often, the pain worsens at night, disrupting sleep. The correct sleeping position can alleviate the pain and help the stones pass quickly, but the best position to lay with kidney stones varies from person to person.

What Are Kidney Stones?

Before getting into the best position to lay with kidney stones, it helps to explain what the stones are, what causes them, and when to seek medical attention.

A diagram of human kidneys with kidney stones.

Kidney stones form as hard objects when there is an overabundance of waste and inadequate liquid to pass it out of the body in urine. Some chemicals that can cause a stone include calcium, uric acid, and cystine, which can create crystals when they aren’t flushed out. The crystals then join together and create a kidney stone.

It is possible to have kidney stones and never know. Small stones can pass without any pain. Some people only discover that they have kidney stones during imaging tests for other conditions. In most cases, large kidney stones cause symptoms, including:

  • Severe pain in the lower back
  • Cloudy urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills

The most obvious symptom of kidney stones, the severe back pain, actually doesn’t occur when the deposits are in the kidneys. When the stones travel through the ureters (the tubes that connect the kidney to the bladder) then pain occurs. The stones slow or block urine flow and cause the ureters to spasm, which causes pain.

When to See a Doctor for Kidney Stones

Most people pass the stones without any medical intervention—albeit not without some distress. Doctors usually recommend increasing water intake, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and waiting a few days for the stones to pass.

Woman rests comfortably while laying on her side.

However, there is a chance that a kidney stone could become lodged in the ureter. This can lead to an infection or other complications. When this happens, the stone needs treatment.

The most common treatment is non-invasive extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). This procedure uses sound waves to break the stone into tiny fragments that can be easily passed. Another treatment is ureteroscopy, where an endoscope is inserted into the ureter to break up or remove the stone. Larger stones (larger than 2mm wide) may need surgical removal.

With that in mind, make an appointment to see your doctor if your symptoms worsen and you:

  • Cannot get comfortable in any position because the pain is so severe
  • Start vomiting, or have nausea, fever, and chills
  • Cannot urinate
  • Pass blood in your urine

What Is the Best Position to Lay With Kidney Stones? It Depends

When you have a kidney stone, the priority is to pass it as soon as possible to eliminate the pain. Research indicates that the best position to lay with kidney stones is on the side with the pain.

Senior man drinks water at home.

In other words, if the stone is in your left ureter, lie on your left side; if it’s in the right ureter, lie on the right. Doctors have found that lying on the side with the affected kidney can help increase blood flow, which helps push the stone out of the ureter.

Other ways to manage the pain of a kidney stone include:

  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers, including ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen.
  • Taking prescription alpha-blockers to relax the muscles in the ureter and reduce pain.
  • Drinking plenty of water. As a general rule, you need to drink at least two liters of water per day to produce enough urine to reduce your risk of developing kidney stones. If kidney stones form, aim to drink 3-4 liters of water to pass them.

When Kidney Stones Do Not Pass On Their Own

If you cannot pass a kidney stone, medical attention is critical to preventing infection. At North Carolina Specialty Hospital, our team of urologists frequently performs kidney stone procedures, including ESWL, and is committed to helping patients from the Raleigh-Durham area and beyond find pain relief.

If you have a persistent, painful kidney stone, don’t wait for the discomfort to become unbearable. Make an appointment with one of the urologists at NCSH and begin exploring your treatment options today.

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