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Roller Coasters Help Pass Kidney Stones, Study Shows

A new study claims riding a roller coaster can help pass painful kidney stones.

Passing a painful kidney stone may be as simple as taking a ride on a roller coaster, according to new research.

Researchers from Michigan State University say riding helps patients pass the stones with a 70 percent success rate.

David Wartinger, who led the study, says he was initially intrigued after hearing many stories of people who’d passed stones after a roller coaster ride.

“Basically, I had patients telling me that after riding a particular roller coaster at Walt Disney World, they were able to pass their kidney stone,” Wartinger said. “I even had one patient say he passed three different stones after riding multiple times.”

To test whether these claims were true, Wartinger used “a validated, synthetic 3D model of a hollow kidney complete with three kidney stones no larger than 4 millimeters inserted into the replica.”

He then placed the model into a backpack, which was then put on the Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster for 20 rides.

“In the pilot study, sitting in the last car of the roller coaster showed about a 64 percent passage rate, while sitting in the first few cars only had a 16 percent success rate,” Wartinger said.

Not all coasters equal

In an expanded study, multiple researchers rode the same ride with multiple kidney models. When sitting in the back of the roller coaster, the success rate of passing the stones was 70 percent.

Stones located in the upper chamber of the model kidney were passed at a 100 percent, researchers said.

Not all roller coasters appeared equally effective, however.

“In all, we used 174 kidney stones of varying shapes, sizes and weights to see if each model worked on the same ride and on two other roller coasters,” Wartinger said. “Big Thunder Mountain was the only one that worked. We tried Space Mountain and Aerosmith’s Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and both failed.”

Wartinger said the other rides were “too fast and too violent,” and caused the stones to be pinned to the side of the kidney.

“The ideal coaster is rough and quick with some twists and turns, but no upside down or inverted movements,” he said.

Around 300,000 people in the United States go to the emergency room with kidney stones each year.

Annual ride encouraged

One common treatment, lithotripsy, breaks up larger stones, but Wartinger says that can often lead to more stones.

“The problem, though, is lithotripsy can leave remnants in the kidney which can result in another stone,” Wartinger said. “The best way to potentially eliminate this from happening is to try going on a roller coaster after a treatment when the remnants are still small.”

Wartinger said that a yearly ride on a coaster could even prevent stones from developing.

“You need to heed the warnings before going on a roller coaster,” he advised. “If you have a kidney stone, but are otherwise healthy and meet the requirements of the ride, patients should try it. It’s definitely a lower cost alternative to health care.”

The study was published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.