Published: December 8, 2021 | 4 mins read
What is Renal Colic & What Treatments Are Available?
The experience of having kidney stones can be summarized into one word- PAINFUL. Scientifically, this out-of-this-world pain is called renal colic. Many believe that the pain is due to the stones’ spikes scraping the walls of the urinary tract. However, that’s not the real reason.
In this article, we will dive deeper into the real cause of renal colic and explore the treatment options you can choose from.
What Causes Renal Colic?
Again, it is not really the spikes on the stone that causes the severe pain. What actually brings this pain is the presence of stuck urine in the kidney due to an obstruction. Picture a narrow tube trying to pass a boulder. That’s what exactly happens.
When urine gets stuck, it will cause the kidney to swell (called hydronephrosis), thus bringing intense pain. And this pain is due to the stretching of the urinary tract, which triggers the nerve endings to send distress signals to your brain.
Other Symptoms Accompanying Renal Colic
There are other symptoms that you may experience aside from the pain itself. And surely, they will leave you desperate for relief. Take note of the following:
1. Intense pain
The pain will come and go at any time of the day. This can be felt along the mid-back, side, or abdomen, radiating to the groin. As explained previously, the pain is due to the kidney stretching unnaturally from the stuck urine.
2. Nausea and vomiting.
The pain signals can disrupt the normal digestive processes and cause discomfort in the stomach, resulting in these symptoms. Additionally, the body may release stress hormones, adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol, in response to the pain, which can contribute to feelings of nausea.
3. Sweating and pale pallor
Severe pain or distress can increase the sympathetic nervous system activity. That’s because the body’s natural response to pain and stress increases blood flow to essential organs and diverts it away from less critical areas, such as the skin. This diversion of blood flow can result in sweating and a pale or clammy complexion.
Dysuria refers to pain or discomfort during urination. In the case of renal colic, a kidney stone or obstruction in the urinary tract can irritate the lining of the ureter, bladder, or urethra. This irritation can lead to pain or a burning sensation when passing urine, resulting in dysuria.
5. Frequent or urgent urination
One possible reason for the frequency or urgency is the irritation of the urinary system. Another would be urine flow disruption due to a stuck stone. When normal urine flow is disrupted, you frequently feel the urge to urinate because you can’t completely empty your urinary tract.
6. Blood in urine
Kidney stones traveling along the urinary tract can lead to small blood vessels breaking as they scrape the delicate flesh. The result is blood in the urine (hematuria). That’s when you notice your urine appearing pink, red, or brown.
Nevertheless, hematuria can also be a symptom of some other conditions, so it is best to consult your medical provider when you experience this.
When this intense pain kicks you, please know it’s not yet the end of the world. You can do something to stop the pain we dread most about kidney stones. Here are three options that you can try:
1. Natural Alternatives
Treating renal colic is also possible using natural herbs. This is your best option to avoid dangerous side effects. For instance, you can use dandelion root, marshmallow root, and chanca piedra for pain and inflammation. Meanwhile, you can use marshmallow root, horsetail, and chamomile to ease urination issues.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, not only reduce pain but also help to alleviate inflammation caused by the obstruction. However, long-term use of NSAIDs are associated with harmful side effects such as kidney damage and liver toxicity. So, use with care.
Opioids are no doubt potent pain relievers. They will help dull the agony, giving you a temporary reprieve. However, the downsides to using opioids are that they cannot really help with inflammation and come with harmful side effects such as addiction, respiratory depression, and overdose.