What causes kidney stone pain?

Diagram of locations where stones become lodged

Three locations where stones become lodged

Stones usually first develop in the kidneys. (For more information on the process of stone development, see: How do kidney stones form?) A kidney stone usually first causes symptoms when it tries to move down the ureter and out of the urinary system. As it makes its way down the ureter, it can cause blockage, which leads to the development of increased pressure in the kidney above. This pressure leads to the pain associated with passing a stone.

As a stone moves  down the ureter, it tends to become lodged in three locations of natural narrowing: the ureteropelvic junction, the crossing of the ureter over the iliac vessels, and at the entrance of the ureter into the bladder. Depending on where a stone is located along this path, the pain associated with it can vary. Stone pain usually starts high up near the kidney then migrates towards the abdomen and eventually down towards the groin as the stone moves further down the ureter. As a stone is almost ready to come out, patients may feel the urge to urinate.

What about kidney stones that aren’t passing?

Most doctors feel that kidney stones only cause pain if they are blocking the ureter and trying to pass down towards the bladder. Stones that are not obstructing, such as those located in the kidney’s calyxes, are generally thought to be non-painful. This explains why some patients can have extremely large stones filling up their entire kidney with no or minimal pain.

However, it does appear that some non-obstructing kidney stones can cause pain because of either blockage of small tubular structures in the kidney itself (the collecting tubules) or for other unclear reasons. Supporting this view is a recent medical journal article suggesting that the treatment of small non-obstructing “papillary” stones may provide pain relief. (Gdor et al, Multi-institutional assessment of ureteroscopic laser papillotomy for chronic pain associated with papillary calcifications, J Urol 2011) Additionally, testimonials from many kidney stone patients (including a urologist with a personal history of kidney stones) suggest that some  non-obstructing stones can cause pain.


230 Responses to What causes kidney stone pain?

  1. Laurie says:

    I had to call 911 on 9/16/16 for severe pain in right side of my back. The pain was excruciating and they couldn’t pump pain meds fast enough to ease the pain. once at the hospital they found 2 golf ball size stones in right kidney and put in a tube that goes from my kidney and right out my back and drains into a bag which I have to empty out every so often. My stone removal surgery is scheduled for 10/3/16 which I can’t wait for. I still have pain when I take deep breaths and also when I move, sit, stand, pretty much anything I do. I had to take off of work for almost a month cause my job consists of lots of lifting, twisting, bending, which I can’t do. I’m afraid that the severe pain will return before my surgery day so I’m taking precautions. I’ve never experienced anything like this before and I hope that I never do again.

  2. ihsan ali says:

    Dr sb.
    i have kidney stone in lower ureter 8mm size what is the solution for this kind of kidney stone please help me.

    • Ashley says:

      HI my name is Ashley an i am a chronic kidney stone sufferer. I saw your post an i wanted to personally answer (hope that is ok). An 8mm stone is a very large stone, that actually requires surgery. I had an 7mm stone an doctors wouldn’t believe me until I passed it and they sent it to lab. Always do your own research, doctors can be very non informative about kidney stones. If doctors claim that your stone is non obstructive that is false because that stone will eventually move and also it can cause damage to the kidney if not treated . I hope this helps, both my kidneys are damaged duè to hundreds of stones I have passed. God Bless You.

  3. kidney pain says:

    it was so helpful

  4. kidney pain says:

    it was helpful but not so long

  5. jim genannt says:

    Ayurveda medicine obviously doesn’t work at this point. 12 & 13 mm stones are completely unpassable and MUST be removed surgically. when the pain starts, and it will hit harder than any pain you’ve ever experienced, get to the ER immediately !

  6. dilawar says:

    I have two stone in my rt. Kidney puj is about 12 mm and 13 mm what I do I have used many Ayurveda medicine

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