QUIZ: Are Kidney Stones Triggering the Niggling Ache in Your Back?

Kidney stones can present with a symptom like back pain. Recognising effective treatment modalities is necessary for relieving the ache.

Woman holding her lower back in pain as she sits up in bed

Kidney stones are hard objects that form from chemicals in the urine. One of the most notable symptoms of this condition is severe lower back pain. Interestingly, the pain can also be the direct result of physical injury or lifting a heavy object. 

If you’re looking to identify the exact cause of your pain, take this short quiz. In addition, it’ll also help you develop a suitable treatment plan with a healthcare provider. 

If your answers are mostly A’s  

A plate of various shellfish displayed on a grey granite surface
Shellfish contains purine, a chemical compound that gives rise to the formation of kidney stones.

The main reason for your back pain is kidney stones and treatment for this disorder relates to the type of stones you have. Calcium oxalate stones form when calcium combines with oxalate in urine. Also, an inadequate intake of calcium and fluids may also give rise to its formation. 

Calcium phosphate stones are less common as compared to calcium oxalate stones, but can occur if you have a condition known as renal tubular acidosis. A diet that consists mainly of organ meat or shellfish contains high levels of a chemical compound called purine. An excessive absorption of purine can lead to the production of uric acid crystals — monosodium urate — that prompt the formation of kidney stones.

Struvite stones are the by-product of chronic upper urinary tract infections (UTIs). Cystine stones, meanwhile, form when there’s a high concentration of cystine – a type of amino acid found in certain foods – in urine. This type of stone tends to run in families.

To prescribe suitable treatment options, a clinical physician will firstly review your medical history and perform a physical examination. In addition, they’ll conduct a urinalysis to identify a urine infection or blood in the urine. However, the most effective way to diagnose kidney stones is to use radiologic technology, such as: 

  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP), special type of X-ray of the urinary system that is taken after injecting a dye 
  • Computed Tomography (CT) scan 
  • A kidney, ureter, bladder (KUB) X-ray 

Separately, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) states that the formation of Kidney stones involves a coagulation of various pathogenic factors. These are Dampness, Heat, phlegm, Blood Stasis qi (vital energy) Stagnation, and kidney yang deficiency.

“All these pathogenic factors collectively arise from work stress, sedentary lifestyles, chronic physical strain at work, as well as unhealthy eating and drinking habits”, explains Real Health Medical Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew. 

Available treatment options for kidney stones 

Drinking sufficient water daily can help the stones pass through without surgery. Prescription medication may also be given to reduce urine acidity. However, an infection, or stones that are too large or block urine flow require surgical intervention. These include: 

  • Shock-wave lithotripsy – a non-invasive procedure that uses high-energy sound to blast the stones into fragments 
  • Ureteroscopy – insertion of an endoscope through the ureter to retrieve or eradicate stones 

“It’s strongly advised to not purchase any of these formulas to self-medicate without first consulting a licensed TCM practitioner for proper assessment of your condition”, cautioned physician Yew. 

Acupressure, too, can be beneficial in addressing the disorder. The acupressure points that might potentially help are guan yuan (RN4, 关元), qi hai (RN6, 气海) and yin ling quan (SP9, 阴陵泉). It’s worth noting that acupressure, like herbal formulas, can only help with mild cases of kidney stones. Seek medical attention if your symptoms are of greater severity. 

If your answers are mostly B’s  

Woman performing a core exercise on a grey medicine ball in the gym
Core exercises can provide spinal support.

The potential causes of your back pain are: 

  • Arthritis – osteoarthritis and ankylosing spondylitis 
  • Disk injuries – degenerative disk disease, a herniated disk or a disk bulge that presses on the nerve 
  • Structural problems – scoliosis, spinal stenosis or a pinched spinal cord 
  • A muscle or tendon strain  

The treatment modalities that a healthcare provider may propose depend solely on the type and severity of your injury. Generally, medications, physical therapy, and hands-on manipulation will be the preferred choices for relaxing the muscles, and easing pain and inflammation.

Ideally, the best way to avoid injury and prevent lower back pain is to practice positive lifestyle habits. Maintaining a healthy body weight can minimise the pressure on your disks and vertebrae. Exercises such as yoga and pilates that canstrengthen your core muscles, on the other hand, can help support your spine.

Understanding the relationship between your lifestyle and symptoms can help determine if kidney stones are the ones that trigger your back pain. We recommend speaking to a licensed TCM practitioner if you wish to use TCM therapies such as herbal medications, acupuncture, and the like. Early intervention is also crucial for enhancing treatment efficacy for your specific disorder. If this quiz has helped you, share it with your loved ones.

References

  1. NATIONAL KIDNEY FOUNDATION. Kidney Stones. [online]  [Accessed 28 February 2022] 
  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Kidney Stones. [online]  [Accessed 28 February 2022] 
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Lower Back Pain. [online] [Accessed 28 February 2022] 

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