Want to Pass a Kidney Stone? Try Riding a Roller Coaster

Matt Stroshane/WDW via Getty Images
Matt Stroshane/WDW via Getty Images

Kidney stones don’t exactly feel like a trip to the amusement park—but, as Gizmodo reports, a study suggests that riding on a moderate-intensity roller coaster might make it easier to pass small ones. The research was published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Kidney stones are solid clumps of salts and minerals that form from highly concentrated substances normally found in urine. They range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Physicians don’t quite know what causes a kidney stone to pass through the urinary canal, although they have noted that some physical activities—manual labor, bungee jumping, and trampoline bouncing, to name a few—can loosen them. Nevertheless, anyone who’s ever suffered a large one can attest that the process can be incredibly painful. (It’s often even compared to childbirth.) Kidney stones are also expensive, costing nearly $4 billion each year in treatment fees.

David Wartinger, a urologist at Michigan State University, noticed that multiple patients had passed kidney stones while on spring break at Disney World in Orlando. All of them had been riding the Thunder Mountain Railroad rollercoaster—and one male patient who rode it three times had even passed a different stone after each consecutive session.

Noticing a therapeutic opportunity, Wartinger teamed up with study co-author Marc Mitchell to 3D-print a clear silicone model of a kidney—specifically, the organ of the man who’d experienced the trio of rollercoaster relief. They then filled it with urine and placed three different-sized kidney stones inside the model’s upper, middle, and lower passageways. The sealed kidney was transported to Disney World, where the researchers put the mock organ in a backpack, held it between them (right next to their real kidneys), and rode Thunder Mountain Railroad 20 times.

The researchers found that sitting in the back of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad yielded a stone passage rate of nearly 64 percent. In contrast, front seat rides resulted in a nearly 17 percent passage rate. They think the jostling they experienced in the rollercoaster’s back helped knock the stone loose from the kidney, down into the ureter, through the bladder, and out of the body.

"In all, we used 174 kidney stones of varying shapes, sizes, and weights to see if each model worked on the same ride and on two other roller coasters," Wartinger said in a press statement. "Big Thunder Mountain was the only one that worked. We tried Space Mountain and Aerosmith's Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and both failed." (These rides, according to the urologist, are so fast and violent that they actually trap the stone inside the kidney.)

The preliminary study's findings "support the anecdotal evidence that a ride on a moderate-intensity roller coaster could benefit some patients with small kidney stones," Wartinger concluded.

By now, the researchers have tried the test on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 200 times, NBC News reports. They are hopeful that their findings can be replicated on other coasters, and that riding these amusement park attractions might help people avoid surgery or painful blockages.

But since every person has his or her own unique kidney passage pattern, not everyone will experience the same relief as Wartinger’s patient. Different roller coasters might provide a better fix—and for some people, other movement-yielding activities might be more effective.

In the meantime, Wartinger hopes to eventually conduct a clinical trial, using real people with kidney stones. To guarantee precise results, he'd give them an ultrasound right before a rollercoaster ride, and another one after to see if the stones moved.

Moderate-intensity rollercoasters probably aren’t the ultimate clinical fix for people with kidney stone woes. However, Wartinger is hopeful that they might help people pass small stones before they grow larger, or stones that have been broken into fragments by ultrasound procedures. “If you have a kidney stone, but are otherwise healthy and meet the requirements of the ride, patients should try it,” Wartinger told The Atlantic. “It’s definitely a lower-cost alternative to health care."

Here’s What You Need to Know About the New Coronavirus

jarun011/iStock via Getty Images
jarun011/iStock via Getty Images

This morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the second case of the recently discovered coronavirus in the U.S. Find out what it is, where it is, how to avoid it, and all the other need-to-know information about the illness below.

What is the new coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses named for the crown-shaped spikes that cover their surfaces (corona is the Latin word for crown). According to the CDC, human coronaviruses can cause upper-respiratory tract illnesses, including the common cold, and can sometimes lead to more severe lower-respiratory tract issues like pneumonia or bronchitis.

Because this latest coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, is so new, health officials are currently trying to figure out how it works and how to treat it. It’s not the first time a potent new coronavirus has caused an international outbreak: SARS-CoV originated in Asia and spread to more than two dozen countries in 2003, and MERS-CoV first infected people in Saudi Arabia before spreading across the globe in 2012.

Where is the coronavirus outbreak happening?

The majority of cases are in China, which counts more than 800 confirmed diagnoses. Most are in Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei province where 2019-nCoV was first detected last month. Additional cases have been reported in South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The CDC has confirmed two U.S. cases—a man in his thirties outside Seattle, and a 60-year-old woman in Chicago—both of whom had recently returned from trips to Wuhan. A CDC official said another 63 potential cases are being investigated in 22 states, and airports in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and San Francisco are conducting health screenings on passengers arriving from China.

Chinese officials have shut down transportation to and from Wuhan. Tourist spots like Beijing’s Forbidden City, Shanghai Disneyland, and a portion of the Great Wall are also closed temporarily.

What are the symptoms of the new coronavirus?

Symptoms are similar to those caused by a cold or the flu, including fever, dry cough, and breathing difficulty. The New York Times reported that as of Friday morning, 25 people in China have died from the virus, and most of them were older men with preexisting health conditions like cirrhosis, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.

How does the new coronavirus spread?

Because most of the early cases of 2019-nCoV were traced back to a seafood and meat market in Wuhan, health officials think the virus originally spread from infected animals to humans, but it’s now being transmitted from person to person.

Though scientists are still studying exactly how that happens, the leading theory is that it travels in tiny droplets of fluid from the respiratory tract when a person coughs or sneezes.

How do you avoid the new coronavirus?

The CDC is warning everyone to avoid any nonessential trips to Wuhan, and to avoid animals or sick people if you’re traveling elsewhere in China. If you’ve been to China in the last two weeks and experience any of the symptoms listed above, you should seek medical attention immediately—and you should call the doctor’s office or emergency room beforehand to let them know you’re coming.

Otherwise, simply stick to the precautions you’d normally take when trying to stay healthy: Wash your hands often with soap and water, cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, stay away from sick people, and thoroughly cook any meat or eggs before eating them.

Should you be worried about the new coronavirus?

The global health community is taking 2019-nCoV seriously in order to curb the outbreak as quickly as possible, but you shouldn’t panic. The CDC maintains that it’s a low-risk situation in the U.S., and public health officials are echoing that message.

“We don’t want the American public to be worried about this, because their risk is low,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told USA Today.

[h/t USA Today]

10 Best U.S. Cities for Reducing Stress

Anaheim, California's Paradise Pier.
Anaheim, California's Paradise Pier.
Kirkikis/iStock via Getty Images

Looking to reduce your stress level? You might want to consider moving to Anaheim, California. Homeowner website House Method analyzed data from America’s largest 100 cities in order to determine the best—and worst—cities for managing your stress level.

The company looked at the same five factors across all 100 cities: commute time, mental health counselors per capita, the percentage of people who exercise regularly, walkability (specifically: to a park), and the number of yoga instructors and classes. Once all the data was tallied, Anaheim, California ended up in the top spot with an overall score of 38.5.

"The city has beautiful weather, lots of sunshine, and Disneyland. How could you be stressed when Mickey lives right down the road?," House Method’s senior editor and researcher David Cusick wrote of the results. "While Anaheim didn’t have the best score for commute time, it did rank number one for the city with the most mental health counselors per capita and has a very high percentage of people who like to exercise frequently."

California did well overall; four of the survey’s top 10 cities were located in The Golden State: Oakland came in second, Irvine came in fourth, and San Francisco came in fifth (despite its high housing costs). Seattle and Spokane, Washington—which came in eighth and tenth, respectively—tipped the scales in the west coast’s favor. Here are the 10 best cities for reducing stress:

  1. Anaheim, CA
  2. Oakland, CA
  3. Jersey City, NJ
  4. Irvine, CA
  5. San Francisco, CA
  6. Minneapolis, MN
  7. Madison, WI
  8. Seattle, WA
  9. Aurora, CO
  10. Spokane, WA

On the other end of the rankings were America’s worst cities for reducing stress, with Laredo, Texas taking the title as the very worst. “Laredo ranked last for the amount of mental health counselors per capita, percentage of people who exercise, and the amount of yoga instructors/classes,” Cusick wrote. “Filling out the bottom five cities are Bakersfield, California (96); Indianapolis, Indiana (97); San Antonio, Texas (98); and Jacksonville, Florida (99).”

For the full list of city rankings, visit House Method.

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