Stages you Need to Know about Passing a Kidney Stone

Stages of Passing a Kidney Stone: There are 4 main stages of passing a kidney stone, that includes: Preliminary, Impacted, ESWL & Recovery

Passing a Kidney Stone

Kidney stones are crystals that form in the kidneys from minerals like calcium and can be extremely painful to pass through the ureter and into the toilet bowl. The average size of a kidney stone ranges from less than 1 centimetre to 3 centimetres, although some stones can be up to 5 cm or even larger. If you’ve ever suffered the pain of passing a kidney stone, you know how unbearable it can be. But have you ever wondered what exactly happens when you pass one? Let’s learn the stages of passing a Kidney Stone!

What are kidney stones?

You can get kidney stones when you have small, hard deposits in your kidneys. They’re usually made up of calcium but can also be made up of other minerals like uric acid.

If they’re small enough, they can pass through your urinary tract and out of your body without causing any pain. But if they’re bigger, they can get stuck and cause blockages that lead to pain. There are four main stages of pain in the Kidney Stone Problem.

What does passing a kidney stone mean?

Urine contains many dissolved minerals and salts. When your urine has high levels of these minerals and salts, you can form stones. Kidney stones can start small but can grow larger in size, even filling the inner hollow structures of the kidney. Some stones stay in the kidney, and do not cause any problems.

Sometimes, the kidney stone can travel down the ureter, the tube between the kidney and the bladder. If the stone reaches the bladder, it can be passed out of the body in urine. If the stone becomes lodged in the ureter, it blocks the urine flow from that kidney and causes pain.

How to know if you are passing a kidney stone

Pink, red or brown urine. Cloudy or foul-smelling urine. A persistent need to urinate, urinating more often than usual or urinating in small amounts. Nausea and vomiting.

Is passing a kidney stone painful? Stones can remain in the kidneys for years without ever causing symptoms. However, stones typically do cause symptoms when they pass from the kidneys through the urinary tract. Pain is the most common symptom when passing a kidney stone.

How long does it take to pass a kidney stone? Once you start feeling the pain of a kidney stone, it can take anywhere between one to four weeks for the stone to actually pass.

Stages of pain in a kidney stone problem

  1. The first stage is when you begin to experience pain. This can be a dull ache or a sharp pain that comes and goes.
  2. The second stage is when the pain gets worse and you may also experience nausea, vomiting, and fever.
  3. The third stage is when the stone moves into your ureter (the tube that carries urine from your kidney to your bladder). This can cause even more pain as well as blood in your urine.
  4. The fourth and final stage is when the stone passes out of your body through your urine.

Stages of Passing a Kidney Stone

There are 4 main stages of passing a kidney stone. Let us look at each one of them in brief:

1. Preliminary

There are four main stages that kidney stones go through as they pass through the body. The first stage is when the rock is formed in the kidney. The second stage is when the stone moves into the ureter, the tube connecting the kidney to the bladder. The third stage is when the stone enters the bladder.

And finally, in the fourth stage, the stone is passed out of the body through urine. Each stage can vary in length, but on average it takes about four to six weeks to pass a kidney stone. So you think you might have a kidney stone?

What now? The first step is to see a doctor confirm that you indeed have a kidney stone. Once that’s out of the way, it’s time to start thinking about how to get rid of the pesky thing. Here are the four stages of passing a kidney stone, from start to finish.

2. Impacted

An impacted kidney stone is one that’s stuck in your urinary tract and isn’t able to pass on its own. This can be extremely painful and may require medical intervention. In some cases, the stone will need to be broken up using sound waves or surgery.

In other cases, the stone may break up on its own as you pee it out.  If this happens, don’t worry! You’ll still need to monitor yourself for signs of infection. If there are no signs of infection after two weeks, you’re free and clear. But if there are signs of infection, seek medical attention right away.

3. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)

ESWL is the most common type of kidney stone treatment. It works by using sound waves to create vibrations that break up the stone into smaller pieces. The smaller pieces can then pass through your urinary tract and be eliminated in your urine.

ESWL is usually done as an outpatient procedure, which means you can go home the same day. You will be given pain medication before and after the procedure.

Person may also need to wear a catheter for about 12 hours afterwards. You may feel some pain when you urinate for about 24 hours after ESWL, but this should gradually decrease over time.

4. Recovery

After the stone has passed, you may feel relief. But there are still a few things that need to happen before you’re in the clear. Your doctor will likely want to monitor you for a little while to make sure that everything is going as it should.

They may also want to do some tests to see what kind of stone it was and why it formed. Depending on the results, they may recommend changes to your diet or medications. Some people find that their body’s ability to create stones gets better after one or two episodes of passing them.

Read: What to expect when you pass them

If this happens, then your doctor might suggest medication or other treatments to help prevent stones from forming again. In rare cases, kidney stones can recur again quickly and without warning; if this happens with no apparent cause, then you’ll have to get checked out more carefully by a specialist like a urologist.

Symptoms of passing a kidney stone

As stones move into your ureters — the thin tubes that allow urine to pass from your kidneys to your bladder — signs and symptoms can result. Signs and symptoms of kidney stones can include severe pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and blood in your urine.

Once a stone has reached your bladder, you’ve made it through the worst part. Until you pass it, you may feel pinching or stinging when you urinate, or a feeling of not being able to empty your bladder fully.

Tips for passing a kidney stone:
The first way to pass a kidney stone is to drink plenty of water. Drinking water can help flush out your kidneys, as hydration is key for both passing and preventing the formation of kidney stones. Instead of aiming for the typical eight glasses of water per day, strive for at least 12 glasses to speed up the process.

After passing a kidney stone what to expect

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.

Causes of pain and soreness after passing a kidney stone 

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.

Residual pain

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.

Referred pain

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.

What can cause urethra pain after passing kidney stones

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.

What does it feel like to pass a kidney stone?

How does passing a kidney stone feel? 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:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • 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.

It takes an average of 31 days to pass a small stone. Stones 4 millimeters or larger may take longer or require a medical procedure to assist.

When to see a doctor after passing kidney stones

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
  • confusion
  • severe fatigue
  • vomiting
  • urine that has blood clots, is foul smelling, or cloudy

Treating soreness after passing kidney stones 

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

Home remedies

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. See Symptoms of Not Drinking Enough Water

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.

Medical treatment

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.

Prevention of Kidney Stones

Prevention is key. To help prevent kidney stones from forming, drink plenty of fluids – especially water – and avoid dehydration. Limit your sodium intake and eat a healthy diet rich in calcium and magnesium. If you’re prone to stone formation, your doctor may also recommend medications or supplements.

  • 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.

Having one kidney stone means you might develop kidney stones in the future. 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.

Bottom line

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.

You might never have given much thought to what it’s like to pass a kidney stone. The truth is, they can be painful and uncomfortable, and the more you know about the process the better prepared you’ll be to deal with the symptoms if you ever have one.

This article above covers everything you need to know about the stages of passing a kidney stone and when it happens to you or someone in your family.