Kidney stones are common and can be quite painful. They form inside the kidneys and are made up of minerals and salts that couldn’t be dissolved in the urine.
There are several things that can increase the risk of kidney stones, including:
- dietary factors
- metabolic problems
Having one kidney stone means you’re at greater risk for developing more in the future.
Pain usually dissipates once you pass the stone. There might be some residual soreness and pain, but this should be temporary.
Lingering pain after passing a kidney stone could be a sign that you have another stone, an obstruction, or infection. It could also be an unrelated issue.
Kidney stones can also cause nausea, vomiting, or blood in the urine. A fever could be a sign of infection and should be considered a medical emergency.
Let’s take a closer look at some causes for soreness or pain after passing a kidney stone and signs that you need to see a doctor.
Once a stone passes out of your body through urine, pain tends to go away. But some people do experience ongoing pain. There are a few reasons this might happen.
Soreness, general discomfort, and pain could be due to irritation or mild inflammation caused by the stone as it passed. If this is the case, these symptoms should resolve within a few days.
Another kidney stone
Even if you had a CT scan that identified only one stone, scans can sometimes miss a second, smaller stone.
And once you’ve had a kidney stone, you’re at risk for developing another. In fact, people who’ve had one stone have about a 50 percent chance of forming another stone within 5 years.
Pain after you’ve passed a kidney stone could be due to narrowing of the ureter. This could be related to a buildup of scar tissue or inflammation caused by the kidney stone as it passed through. There could also be a second stone blocking the ureter.
Either way, it means you’ll have trouble urinating. As urine backs up, it can cause damage to the kidneys. Other signs of obstruction are:
- pain that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin, varying in intensity
- burning sensation during urination
- urine that’s pink, red, brown, cloudy, or has a foul smell
- nausea, vomiting
- fever, chills
- swelling in the legs
A doctor may have prescribed narcotics (opioids) for the pain. One of the side effects of these drugs is opioid-induced constipation, which can lead to pain and abdominal bloating. Make sure you’re not taking more than you need.
When you feel pain in one place, but it originates in another, it’s called referred pain.
So, the pain that seems so similar to kidney stone pain could be due to something else entirely. Pain in your side, back, or under the ribcage could actually be due to a problem with the gastrointestinal tract, abdomen, or genitals.
While pain can ease once the stone reaches your bladder, it can become painful again as it leaves your body through the urethra. Passing a large stone can irritate the urethra, but it should be temporary.
Urethral pain can be due to a number of factors aside from passing a kidney stone. Continuing urethral pain should be assessed by a doctor.
Small stones can pass without any symptoms at all, but larger stones can be a problem.
As long as the stone is in the kidney and not blocking the flow of urine, you probably won’t feel it. Eventually, the stone leaves the kidney and enters the ureter on its way to the bladder.
The ureters are tiny, about 1/8 inch wide, so if a stone can’t move through, it’s hard for urine to flow.
This can cause swelling and incredibly painful spasms (renal colic). You’ll feel a sharp, stabbing pain in your side or back, below the ribcage. Pain sometimes radiates to the groin and genitals.
You might find that the intensity of the pain changes as you change position and as the stone continues its journey through your urinary tract. You’ll probably find it near impossible to lie still, tossing and turning in an effort to stop the pain. Pain can subside for several hours before returning.
Other symptoms of kidney stones include:
- blood in the urine
The pain tends to ease up once the stone reaches the bladder. If the stone is small, or has broken into small pieces, you may not feel it as it flows from the bladder, through the urethra, and out with the urine.
Stones don’t usually block the urethra, since it’s twice as wide as the ureters, but a larger stone can cause resurgence of pain.
Once you’ve passed a kidney stone, symptoms should be greatly improved. See a doctor for follow-up as recommended. But call a doctor right away with additional concerns, particularly if you have:
- chills, fever
- inability to urinate
- severe fatigue
- urine that has blood clots, is foul smelling, or cloudy
Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you have:
- severe pain that isn’t helped by pain meds
- dizziness or fainting
A doctor will likely start with a physical examination and discussion of your symptoms. Diagnostic procedures may include:
- imaging tests to check for additional stones or other problems
- 24-hour urine collection
- blood work
Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. This will help urine flow and lower the chances of forming a new stone. If your urine isn’t very light in color, you’re not drinking enough.
Unless pain is severe, try to stay physically active.
If you’re not taking prescribed pain relievers, try over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for a few days. If you think you’re going to pass another stone, use a strainer so you can bring the specimen to a doctor.
Take prescribed medications and follow up as recommended. Keep your doctor informed of any new or worsening symptoms. Additional treatment will depend on the cause for your continuing discomfort or pain.
Having one kidney stone means you might develop kidney stones in the future. Here are some steps you can take to help prevent kidney stones from forming:
- Drink about 2-1/2 liters of water per day unless a doctor advises otherwise. How much water each person needs may vary.
- Maintain a low-salt diet.
- Limit animal protein to 6 to 8 ounces a day.
- Lower sugar consumption.
- Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.
- If you take a vitamin C supplement, make sure it’s less than 1,000 milligrams per day.
If you have a history of kidney stones, a dietician can review your eating habits and provide specific dietary tips that can help lower risks of kidney stones.
Soreness after passing kidney stone is likely the result of irritation caused by the stone. In most cases, this should clear up within a few days.
Lingering pain after passing a kidney stone could be a sign of another stone, infection, or an unrelated problem. Unexplained pain should be investigated.
Once the cause is determined, your doctor can take the next steps toward resolving the problem.