Kidney Research Since 1999

Vivian Okirie, MD
Vivian Okirie, MD

2018 Doctor of Medicine (M.D. cum laude) procured at Morhouse School of Medicine - Currently a resident doctor at UTHealth in Houston

Sep 28, 2018 4 min read

Kidney Stone Home Treatments vs. Medical Treatments

kidney stone pain

What exactly is a kidney stone? Scientifically speaking, it is a crystallized mineral formation in the kidney from various substances that are not effectively diluted in the urine. In layman’s terms, it means a lot of pain! If you or someone you know have ever experienced a kidney stone, we are sure that you will never forget the amount of pain it caused, and I am sure you never want it to reoccur. The unfortunate news is that if you have suffered from kidney stones before, you have a 50% chance of reoccurrence. The good news is there are numerous options (medical and nonmedical) for preventing and treating kidney stones.

Medical Treatments

Once the pain of a kidney stone hits, it is very likely that you will eventually rush to the emergency room because of its severity. And it is not uncommon to meet other individuals with similar symptoms of flank pain or bloody urine in the same waiting room. That is how common kidney stones have become in the United States and abroad. So what are the options for treatment and better yet prevention?

Prescribed Medications: When it comes to kidney stones, size matters! Extremely small stones require little intervention and usually only need pain medications because the stone will pass on their own. The physician will also recommend the patient consume large volumes of water as the stone “passes” out of the ureter (connects the kidney to the bladder) into the bladder. In patients with excruciating pain, narcotics might be administered and prescribed in addition to an alpha-blocker to relax the muscles of the ureter. The pain of kidney stones is experienced when the ureter contracts down on the stone; therefore, relaxation of this muscle should decrease pain and allow the stone to pass easier.

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy: Sometimes the stone is simply too big to pass on its own in one piece, but it is too small to require surgical intervention. This is where lithotripsy comes in handy. This methods assists in removing kidney stones by breaking up stones via sound waves. The sound waves create such strong vibrations that break up larger stones into small chunks capable of traveling through the urinary tract. Lithotripsy does induce pain and usually requires the patient to undergo light anesthesia or minimal sedation to minimize pain. The after effects must be explained that patients may notice bruising of the abdomen or groin in addition to blood in the urine days following the procedure.

Ureteroscopy: Another option to lithotripsy, the physician can insert a ureteroscope through your urethra into the bladder and push it forward until it reaches the stone in the ureter. This instrument contains a camera so your structures can be visualized to ensure proper technique. Once at the stone, the instrument can grab ahold of it and break it down into small pieces and remove them and/or let them pass through the urine.

Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy: Stones too large for lithotripsy will require invasive surgery such as percutaneous nephrolithotomy. A small incision is made in the back and the stone is removed via a small telescope and other instruments. The patient will be hospitalized for a few days to ensure no complications arise.

Natural Treatments

If you prefer to use more natural, at home remedies, we have found a number of treatments for kidney stone sufferers. These suggestions do not necessarily work for all individuals, and depending on the severity of the renal stone, medical intervention might still be needed.

Lemon Juice, Olive Oil, and Raw Apple Cider Vinegar:  When pain is first felt, you should mix these ingredients together into a beverage and then chug it. Then follow this with a glass of water. Repeat this order every hour until symptoms resolve.

Dandelion Root: This supplement is known to be an effective kidney cleanser when taken twice a day to flush out any remaining toxins that may increase the risk of stones.

Uva Ursi: It cleanses the urinary tract and reduces kidney stone associated pain. Some have also used it as a preventative measure to ward off kidney infections.

Kidney Beans: Named after the organ itself, it seems reasonable these are beneficial to the kidneys. Historically, the beans were used as a kidney tonic. Today, people swear by their effectiveness in treating kidney stones. Boiling the pods in purified water, straining it through cheesecloth, and drinking the remaining liquid throughout the day is helpful to ease kidney stone pain.

Pomegranate Juice: Pomegranate seeds and juice have just recently been recognized as a healthy supplement for all types of ailments. One of them being kidney stone pain. It is thought that the sourness and astringent properties of the pomegranate help to ease the pain associated with the stones. Drink the juice or eat the seeds throughout the day to help ease the pain.

Horsetail: By drinking 3-4 cups of horsetail tea, kidney stone pain is reduced.

Magnesium: Magnesium plays a role in decreasing the likelihood of calcium oxalate stones, which are the most common kidney stone. Ensuring adequate magnesium is in the diet will bind available calcium, lessening the availability of calcium to bind to oxalate to form stones.

Basil: Basil is considered a kidney detoxifier. Basil tea and basil juice – taken with honey – are both considered helpful in reducing the occurrence of kidney stones and decreasing the pain associated with kidney stones when they occur.

Organic Celery: As a preventative measure, use celery seed and eat raw forms of celery as a way to prevent kidney stones from forming. They naturally increase urine production- due to their high water content – which is great to ward off dehydration that is the likely culprit in many kidney stone ailments.

Medical or Natural – Which Treatment is the Best?

It is important to identify that the natural treatments are not based in science but have been shown to alleviate pain in individuals experiencing renal stones pain and also lessen the likelihood of stone formation. Regardless of prior natural remedies, if your flank pain is too severe, medical intervention should be sought as soon as possible. However, if your pain is tolerable and you are open to trying holistic medicine, the recommendations above are great alternatives that can promote overall health.

Prevention is always the key for kidney stones. Since we cannot change our genetic predisposition to developing kidney stones, we will rely on altering our lifestyles instead. We encourage that everyone exercises regularly (, stay hydrated, and consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. These recommendations are all assumed to be agreed upon by the individual and their physician. Limit the consumption of soda and high-fatty foods. Doing all of this is not only great for the prevention of kidney stones – it is great for your general health.