Navigating Your Kidney Stone Emergency

You might not know what to do when a kidney stone strikes, but whether it’s your first or fifth, the experience will remain pretty standard: extreme pain, panic, and relief. But while the kidney stone experience is predictable, finding a guide to navigating it is difficult. This article is designed to address that gap.

Below, you will find a step-by-step guide to navigating your kidney stone emergency in real time. This article is designed to walk you through the experience, not to be read before or after a kidney stone strikes. From pre-stone symptoms to relief, I’ve broken down the steps into segments and questions.

Pre-Stone Symptoms

Like most medical conditions, kidney stones can come with early warning signs. If there is blood in your urine, for example, something painful could be on the way. You may feel the need to urgently use the rest room, and you may only be able to urinate for a couple of seconds at a time. If you suspect a kidney stone may be on the way, ask yourself:

  • Am I experiencing any pain?
  • Is my urine normal?
  • Can I urinate without pausing?
  • Do I constantly need to urinate?

Additionally, there is now a new tool doctors can use to predict kidney stone recurrences. If your physician offers this service, take them up on it. It can be useful in understanding when your next kidney stone will strike.

Identifying the Stone

The key to identifying a kidney stone is to focus on the source of the pain. If you are experiencing severe pain in the side and back, just below the ribs, it is likely caused by a kidney stone. If the pain is exacerbated by urination, or if your urine is cloudy, foul-smelling, or a strange color, this can confirm the diagnosis. Ask yourself:

  • Where is the pain?
  • Am I able to urinate?
  • Was there anything strange about the last urination I took?

If you are unable to locate the source of pain, or if your urine isn’t affected, you may not be experiencing a kidney stone. Instead, it could be something more serious. If possible, visit a doctor as soon as you are able to have the condition diagnosed and treated.


Once the kidney stone pain begins, your body will start to panic. Pain can induce fear, which can then lead to panic attacks. These attacks can exacerbate an already painful experience by triggering several additional physical symptoms. This can include dizziness, lightheadedness, palpitations, sweating, numbness, and shortness of breath.

It is important to remember that most stones will pass on their own within a few hours or days. You might notice a red, pink, or brown color in your urine, but this is normal. Take a breath, try to calm down, and then figure out a strategy.

Visit a Medical Professional

Typically, the only way to stop kidney stone pain is to visit a medical professional. While you’ll likely need to pass the stone on your own, a doctor can prescribe maximum-strength pain killers to help you get comfortable. It doesn’t matter whether you visit a hospital, your general physician, or any urgent care location. Find somewhere that takes your insurance and head in that direction. The experience should be over soon.

Remember that some larger stones cannot pass on their own, which means you will need to visit a doctor. If this is your first stone, going to a doctor can reduce panic and provide crucial pain management. If you’ve had kidney stones before, you’ll be better equipped to understand what is happening to your body and whether you need medical help.