Skip to content

Know anyone suffering from those little crystalline monsters we call kidney stones? The ones that can take a grown adult to tears in half-a-millisecond? 

Well, there may be a secret to getting rid of them that’s actually… fun. 

And, it’s according to actual Science.

A study published in 2016 in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association discovered that sitting in the back of a roller coaster can help pass kidney stones more effectively than sitting in the front. Researchers conducted the study by riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney World 20 times while carrying a 3D-printed kidney with a stone inside. The study revealed that stones passed 64% of the time when sitting in the back, and only 17% when sitting in the front. In addition, the position of the stone affected the passage rate, with stones in the upper chambers (calyces) passing more frequently than those in the middle or lower chambers. Interestingly, the size of the stone did not seem to influence the proportion of stones passed.

Here’s a quick refresher on what kidney stones are — According to the Mayo Clinic, they form when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances such as calcium, oxalate, and uric acid than the fluid in your urine can dilute. The crystals can stick together, creating kidney stones. People with certain medical conditions like hyperparathyroidism or a family history of kidney stones are at risk of forming them, but even being regularly dehydrated can cause them to form. Passing kidney stones can be excruciating as they work their way through your kidney to get out of your body. “Passing a kidney stone is like giving birth to a porcupine,” Wartinger says.

Wartinger didn’t come up with the rollercoaster idea out of thin air. Several of his patients fold him they had passed kidney stones while riding roller coasters. East Lansing, Mich. (where he’s based), becomes a ghost town in the spring as half of the population goes to Orlando for spring break. His patients would come back and tell him that they had passed kidney stones while they were in Orlando. Wartinger started noticing a trend but didn’t think it was legitimate until one patient told him he went on a roller coaster, passed a stone, went on again, and passed three stones in a row. That was a pattern worth exploring!

Wartinger believes that not everyone will respond to the same ride, as each person has a unique kidney passage pattern. Riding a roller coaster can help pass small kidney stones before they become obstructive or require surgery. The researchers aim to test more coaster models to make the findings helpful for patients. And this obviously goes without saying — roller coasters aren’t safe for everyone, especially pregnant women, those with back and spinal issues, and individuals who know they have sensitivities for whatever reason, so if you feel you rollercoasters are an unsafe option — DO NOT RIDE! 

If you don’t have easy access to a roller coaster, there are other ways to pass kidney stones. And while passing them super fast is not always the case, you can take these steps to help them find their way out: 

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to increase urine flow and help flush out the stone.
  • Eat citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges, which contain citrate and may help dissolve certain types of kidney stones.
  • Opt for herbal teas, such as dandelion root or nettle leaf tea, which are believed to have diuretic properties that promote urine production.
  • Stay active. Even though you may not feel like it, movement will encourage the stone to go down the urinary tract.

If you experience severe pain or complications, please consult a doctor and seek medical attention immediately.

Of course, the better option is to never develop them in the first place, so here are some tips to prevent kidney stones:

  • Drink lots of water to dilute urine and reduce the risk of stone formation.
  • Avoid drinking lots of sugary beverages.
  • Monitor your salt intake! Salt increases calcium levels in urine, leading to stone formation. Opt for low-sodium alternatives.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight. Follow a balanced diet and engage in regular exercise. Keep moving!
  • Routine checkups allow healthcare providers to monitor kidney health and identify potential issues early on.

Now, back to the roller coaster study.  Even though it was conducted in 2016, no official human trials have ever been done and it seems to be missing some other key points of data. To that end, Gary Faerber, MD, a urologist at the University of Utah Health, has some opinions. “It’s an interesting study, but it could have been better designed,” he says. “They have no acceleration/deceleration data, which would have been very helpful in understanding the effects of specific G-forces required to dislodge the stones. A discussion about the effects of G-force and what is needed to dislodge a stone are needed to flesh out the findings.”

What’s your opinion? Would you ride on a mid-level roller coaster to dislodge a kidney stone? Would you even feel like riding a rollercoaster if you had a kidney stone that you knew you would be passing soon? Would walking around an amusement park waiting for it to pass be better than sitting at home? We’re curious about your thoughts on this. What say you?