The pain of trying to pass a kidney stone (calculus) has been described by many people as the most excruciating pain they have ever experienced. These usually are calcium oxalate stones but other minerals also may produce stones. These stones vary in size from tiny, sand-like grains to 5mm (3/16 inch) and even larger. They form from waste materials in the urine that do not fully dissolve and slowly clump together over time.
Calculus may be found in the kidneys, ureter (tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder), vesical (bladder) or urethra (the vessel through which urine passes after leaving the bladder).
Not drinking enough water during the day, poor magnesium intake, too much meat, fish, chicken and beer, a history of gout, and certain medications are known to encourage the formation of oxalate stones.
Kidney stone pain often starts in the back and may move downward to the thighs. Pain in the lower abdomen or groin may occur. Painful urination may result from urethral and vesical calculus.
Medical Treatment of Kidney Stones
Most stones pass within 48 hours. The largest stones have only a 20% chance of passing, and with extreme pain. Prostate enlargement and pregnancy can interfere with passage of even smaller stones.
NSAIDS such as ibuprofen, or opoids (narcotics) usually are the first response to the pain, followed by watchful waiting to see if the stone will pass.
Medical intervention usually is called for when a stone becomes trapped.
- Urinary infections may occur and are treated with antibiotics.
- In order to locate a stone precisely before initiating removal surgery a urogram
(x-ray), isotope renogram, or “B” type ultrasonography may be called for.
- The hazards of radiation are well known. Ultrasound is safer but often produces less precise results.
More severe cases may require extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy to shatter the obstructed stone, percutaneous nephrolithotomy (surgery to remove the stone), or insertion of a tube (ureteral stent) to bypass the obstructed stone.
Acupuncture Treatment of Kidney Stones
The primary goal of acupuncture in treating kidney stones is to promote energy flow along the affected acupuncture meridians, thereby inducing urination, relieving strangury (straining to produce even small volumes of urine in spasmodic “dribbles”) and to shrink and eventually allow the stones to pass.
- Adding electrical stimulation to the acupuncture needles can create vibrations along the meridian, allowing the kidney stone to work itself down the ureter.
- Certain types of stones will respond to ear needling.
Elderly patients often present difficult conditions which make the Western approach to treating their kidney stones a poor option.
Dr. Peter Sheng (internist, hematologist and cancer care specialist) has found in his practice that “acupuncture is a good alternative to modern medicine’s wonderful equipment and technology. Especially, for those who do not respond well initially, those who cannot afford these procedures and especially those who have constitutional issues, for example, for elderly with significant fatigue who might not be good candidates for western procedures.”
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