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."

The World Health Organization Is Releasing a COVID-19 App to Combat Coronavirus Misinformation

WHO MyHealth is meant to help clear up misinformation surrounding the novel coronavirus.
WHO MyHealth is meant to help clear up misinformation surrounding the novel coronavirus.
MangoStar_Studio/iStock via Getty Images

As is the case with most crises, the novel coronavirus has become a breeding ground for misinformation. Because the disease is so new, there are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding it, but that hasn't stopped people from claiming to know how to treat, prevent, and detect COVID-19. In an effort to separate fact from fiction, the World Health Organization (WHO) is launching an app dedicated to sharing what we know and don't know about the virus, 9to5Google reports.

Named WHO MyHealth, the new app is a collaboration between former Google and Microsoft employees, WHO advisors and ambassadors, and other tech and health experts. Users will be able to compare their symptoms with those linked to COVID-19 and receive public health updates specific to their location. As of now, there are plans to invite people who have been either been diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19 to share their phone's location history to give experts a better idea of how the virus spreads.

WHO MyHealth, which is currently being built as open source, is set to roll out for Android and iOS on Monday, March 30. If you have questions about COVID-19 you need answered immediately, you can also access accurate and up-to-date information through the WHO's chatbot.

Any information regarding novel coronavirus should be met with skepticism when it can't be traced back to organizations like the WHO or the CDC—especially when it comes to supposed cures. No specific medication has been proven to treat or prevent COVID-19, so you shouldn't take advice from anyone claiming otherwise.

[h/t 9to5Google]

11 Boredom-Busting Classes and Activities You Can Do at Home

A good workout is just one way to pass the time while socially isolating.
A good workout is just one way to pass the time while socially isolating.
jacoblund/iStock via Getty Images

Staying home as much as possible is the best way to stop the spread of novel coronavirus, according to health experts. If you’ve already taken this step to protect yourself and your community, you may be faced with a different problem: the crushing boredom that comes with spending all your time indoors. Fortunately, there have never been more ways to keep busy on the internet. In an effort to lift spirits and stimulate minds in isolation, businesses, artists, and institutions have found new ways to keep people connected from afar. From virtual field trips to free workout classes, here are the best boredom-busting activities to check out.

1. Take a free workout class with the YMCA.

Your local gym may be closed, but that doesn’t mean you have to postpone your workout routine for the foreseeable future. The YMCA has launched a new series of free, online fitness classes for people stuck at home. The on-demand videos include barre, bootcamp, yoga, tai chi, and weightlifting. After breaking a sweat for 30 minutes, you may even forget you’re not at the gym.

2. Meditate with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s jellyfish.

Taking care of your mental health is as important as maintaining your physical health while social distancing. If you want to start your day in a good head space, tune into the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s morning “MeditOceans” on YouTube. After closing to the public, the California aquarium started uploading 10- to 15-minute guided meditations set to soothing footage of marine life or scenes from nature. We recommend starting with their video of undulating jellyfish.

3. Take a virtual field trip to a National Park.

Combat claustrophobia by taking a virtual tour of some of the country’s most majestic national parks. The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks project from Google Arts & Culture offers virtual, 360-degree tours of five National Park System sites, all guided by real park rangers. The diverse destinations include the Kenai Fjords in Alaska; Hawai’i Volcanoes in Hawai’i; Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico; Bryce Canyon in Utah; and Dry Tortugas in Florida. You can view all the properties from your phone or computer, and if you have a virtual reality headset, you can transport yourself out of your home with an immersive experience.

4. Take an Improv Class from Second City.

Improv comedy is difficult to do alone. With Second City, you can take a class with other students and master instructors from the comfort of your home. Second City has helped launch the careers of such comedy heavyweights as Steve Carell, Bill Murray, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey. Even though its physical theaters in Chicago, Toronto, and Los Angeles are closed during the coronavirus crisis, comedy classes will continue online. In addition to improv, students can take virtual lessons in comedic songwriting, pitching TV shows, stand-up, sketch comedy, and more from Second City’s pro teachers. If you’re not willing to pay $195 to $295 for a four- to eight-week online course, you can take a one-time drop-in improv or stand-up class for $25.

5. Learn about Women’s History with The New-York Historical Society.

Whether you’re teaching someone home from school or looking to educate yourself in your spare time, there are plenty of remote resources online. The New-York Historical Society is sharing its expertise in the form of a free digital curriculum on women’s history in America. The online course materials cover the period from 1920 to 1948, starting with the flappers of the Jazz Age and ending with women in the postwar era. You can view the entire unit, which includes archival photos and documents, on the NYHS’s website.

6. Join the D.C. Library’s quarantine book club.

If you already plan on reading a ton of books in isolation, you can turn the solitary activity into a social one by joining a quarantine book club. The D.C. Public Library recently announced its book club D.C. Reads is going digital, and now anyone can participate from home. This month’s pick is With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. If you have a Washington, D.C. library card, you can use it to download the e-book for free. Book club discussions will take place on March 28 and April 4 at 2 p.m. through the library’s Twitter account.

7. Draw with Wendy Macnaughton.


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Whether you consider yourself a novice or a Picasso, you can benefit from making art with others. Every weekday at 10 a.m. PST, Wendy Macnaughton (illustrator of the cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat) hosts drawing classes in her Instagram Stories. All participants need is paper and a pencil. Artists of all ages can draw along, though Macnaughton states classes are just long enough to keep kids occupied for parents “to get a little work done or take a shower and take a couple deep breathes.”

8. Tour the American Museum of Natural History.

As long as you have an internet connection, the impressive halls of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City are just a few clicks away. Every day at 2 p.m. EST, the institution is sharing tours of its exhibits and collections as Facebook Lives. Some special sneak peeks published to the AMNH Facebook page so far include a tour of the Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians and a look at its trilobite collection led by curator and trilobite paleontologist Melanie Hopkins.

9. Take a cooking class with Milk Street.

Not sure what to do with your quarantine food supply? Taking a cooking class is a great place to start. Through the end of April, Milk Street (from America’s Test Kitchen co-founder Christopher Kimball) is making its online culinary lessons free to everyone. Topics include baking, cooking without a recipe, and using certain kitchen tools. After a few weeks of classes, you’ll know your way around everything from a chef’s knife to an Instant Pot.

10. Get Creative with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

While it’s closed, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is using its social media to keep followers engaged with their creative sides. Every Tuesday on Instagram, the institution will post a new challenge to its Stories. This week’s challenge is finding something to read and posting about it to Instagram to help the museum compile the ultimate reading list. Past challenges have included setting aside 30 minutes to make art and sharing photos of pets wearing wigs.

11. Learn guitar with Fender.

At the risk of driving your quarantine-mates crazy, you can use isolation as an opportunity to get in touch with your inner rockstar. Fender is giving the first 100,000 users who create a new account on Fender Play three months of free online lessons. The instructional videos led by talented musicians are high-quality, and you can access them from your phone, tablet, or computer. And if you don't have a guitar at home, the program also includes lessons for bass guitars and ukuleles.

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