What Causes Kidney Stone Pain?

The pain that kidney stones cause has been described many ways. Worse than child birth, elephant sitting on the bladder, knife sticking in the back, and the list goes on. Incredibly, kidney stones are relatively small in size compared to the body and yet….irritate a host of nerves in the body. But what causes kidney stone pain? Stone formations can block passages from the kidney to the bladder, and thus restricting urine flow. This is a common symptom of what doctors call renal colic. When pressure in the kidneys and ureter is caused by blockage, or even movement of kidney stones it activates nociceptive nerve fibers – fibers which sense injury. The fibers send signals to the spinal cord which are interpreted as pain. These pain signals will migrate downward as the stones move lower within the renal passages. Many of the nerve fibers are connected to adjacent organs in the body. This is why many sufferers experience nausea. The gastrointestinal tract is directly effected by these nerve fibers during renal colic. Within the kidneys, capillaries can be restricted of blood flow due to inflammation, and swelling of tissue in reaction to stones being formed. The filtration system of the kidneys is “thwarted” by capillaries being irritated and thus pressure builds up in the afferent arterioles. Many sufferers are misdiagnosed early on because the pain associated with the stone formations is misinterpreted as a different ailment. Kidney stone pain is caused by not just the stones themselves, but from the body reacting to the stone formations.

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