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Roller Coaster Rides — Just 1 Surprising Way to Prevent Kidney Stones


A moderate-intensity roller coaster ride may be a natural and fun way to help pass kidney stones, according to the surprising findings of a new study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Lead researcher David D. Wartinger says he became interested in roller-coaster riding as a therapy when a series of patients reported passing kidney stones after riding the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Previous research reports have also identified cases of patients who passed kidney stones after riding a roller coaster or bungee jumping, he said.

Wartinger was especially intrigued by a patient who spontaneously passed a stone after each of three consecutive rides on the Orlando roller coaster.

So he and co-author Marc A Mitchell, decided to perform an experiment, using 3D printing to create a clear silicone anatomical model of the patient’s kidney.

They filled the model with urine and three kidney stones of differing sizes. With the permission of Walt Disney World, they placed the sealed model in a backpack and took 20 two-and-a-half-minute rides on the roller coaster, which makes sharp twists and turns and reaches speeds up to 35 mph.

The researchers found the coaster ride not only helped the stones to pass, but that sitting in the back was associated with a nearly quadrupled passage rate (about 64 percent) compared with sitting in the front (nearly 17 percent).

“Preliminary study findings support the anecdotal evidence that a ride on a moderate-intensity roller coaster could benefit some patients with small kidney stones,” Wartinger said in a statement.

“Passing a kidney stone before it reaches an obstructive size can prevent surgeries and emergency room visits. Roller coaster riding after treatments like lithotripsy and before planned pregnancies may prevent stone enlargement and the complications of ureteral obstruction.”

Kidney stones are one of the nation’s most common urinary-tract disorders. Each year, they account for more than one million visits to doctors, and more than 300,000 trips to emergency rooms. The annual cost of treating kidney stones is estimated at $2.1 billion.

The most common types of kidney stones – which range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball – contain calcium. They’re more likely to occur in people who are overweight or obese, non-Hispanic whites, and men.

In the United States, an estimated 11 percent of men and 6 percent of women will develop a kidney stone during their lifetimes.

Kidney stones are associated with risk factors such as:

• A family history of stones.
• Recurrent urinary tract infections.
• A condition affecting levels of calcium, phosphorus, and oxalate, substances in urine that foster kidney-stone formation.

Since kidney stones are strongly associated with an insufficient fluid intake, one of the best ways to prevent them is to drink two to three liters of fluid per day.

Although experts say plain water is best, beverages such as orange juice and lemonade also may be effective.

Other ways to prevent kidney stones include limiting intakes of:

• Sodium
• Animal protein.
• Calcium.
• Oxalate, which is concentrated in tea, rhubarb, leeks, spinach, beets, Swiss chard, almonds, cashews, peanuts, wheat germ, and quinoa.

Although small kidney stones often cause no symptoms and pass on their own with little or no discomfort, symptoms of problematic kidney stones include:

• Pain during urination.
• Blood in urine.
• Sharp and persisting pain in the back or lower abdomen.
• Fever and chills.
• Vomiting.

If you have a large kidney stone or a blockage of your urinary tract, treatment options include surgical removal or procedures to break it into small pieces. These include:

• Shock wave lithotripsy.
• Ureteroscopy.
• Percutaneous nephrolithotomy.

Wartinger and colleagues said kidney stone sufferers should talk to their doctors before considering roller-coaster ride therapy.

Factors such as the size and location of the kidney stone – as well as medical history – may influence how well a kidney stone responds to the ride’s force of gravity.

But the authors are hopeful that further research may establish roller-coaster ride therapy as an effective alternative to oftentimes painful medical treatments.

“The osteopathic philosophy of medicine emphasizes prevention and the body’s natural ability to heal,” Wartinger said in a statement.

“What could be more osteopathic than finding a relatively low-cost, non-invasive treatment that could prevent suffering for hundreds of thousands of patients?”



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