Kidney stones are formed from a hard mineral deposit called calculus. Calculus is a “result of a chemical reaction that occurs when the urine becomes too concentrated. Calcium salts, uric acid, cystine, and other substances in the urine crystallize to form a (stone), often the size of a pebble.” (Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, p. 898) The most common types of kidney stones are:
- Calcium stones, account for over 70% of all stones; found mostly in men
- Uric acid stones, account for approximately 8% of all stones; also found mostly in men
Kidney stones generally don’t produce symptoms until they break loose and begin to work their way down the ureter towards the bladder. When this occurs, the symptoms, as defined in the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, page 898, are as follows:
- Gradual development of pain, usually beginning in the flank and worsening….
- Pain moves downward to flank and groin, vulva, or testicle as the stone moves down the ureter (from the kidney to the bladder)
- Persistent urge to urinate
- Blood in the urine
Commonly Prescribed Treatment
Most stones are under 0.2 inches and are passed in the urine “without causing any permanent damage” (Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, p. 898.) If a stone is larger than 0.2 inches, or if “an infection or obstruction to urinary flow is present, (surgery) may be needed to prevent damage to the kidney.” (A.M.A. Encyclopedia of Medicine, p. 225) Traditionally, this always entailed undergoing a major operation under general anesthesia. Today, most kidney stones can be removed through a minimally invasive procedure called lithotripsy, which uses ultrasonic shock waves to disintegrate the stone to allow it to pass in the urine. Whether or not medical intervention is needed, a rule that applies to everyone suffering from kidney stones is that they a minimum of 6 to 8 glasses of water daily, one glass of water at bedtime, and another during the night. This practice “dilutes the urine, thus making it less likely that crystals will form.” (Mayo Clinic, p. 901)
Recommendation for Massage
Massage is not contraindicated for people with kidney stones. Kidney stones cannot be spread to other parts of the body, they don’t cause (external) bleeding or inflammation, are not a disorder of the circulatory system, do not cause abnormal sensation or loss of integrity in an area and do not compromise the immune system. As previously mentioned, most people with kidney stones don’t develop symptoms and therefore are not in a state of discomfort. However, if a person is experiencing pain, they may be in the process of passing a stone or in need of medical intervention and would most likely not be open to receiving massage.