Riding a roller coaster could help you pass small kidney stones

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

Every year around Spring Break there is a mass migration in which flocks of families from mid-Michigan flee the winter cold and head South, down to Orlando, Florida and the many theme parks there. They return a week later, satiated with fun and sun, cleansed of their worries by the vacation and their kidney stones by the roller coasters.

Yes, riding a moderately intense roller coaster for just a few minutes might be enough to dislodge those pesky kidney stones before they turn into an even bigger problem. In a paper published today in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, researchers showed that riding the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney World's Magic Kingdom helped kidney stones dislodge.

Kidney stones are small mineral deposits that form in the kidney and can be very painful to pass through the urinary tract. They can result in about 300,000 emergency room visits in the United States each year, with annual costs of treating kidney stone patients at about $2.1 billion.

Urologist David Wartinger told Popular Science that the idea for the study came about eight years ago, after a patient came to see him after a spring break vacation down to Disney World. The patient had gone on a ride, the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Disney World's Magic Kingdom three times in a row. That, in itself was not unusual. What caught Wartinger's attention was the fact that after each ride the patient passed a small kidney stone, passing three stones in less than an hour.

"That really caught my attention, there was something going on here with roller coasters and renal calculi [kidney stones]" Wartinger says. "The problem was, how do you study something like that?"

Photos of the popular theme parks you might not know about:

17 PHOTOS
Popular theme parks little known by Americans
See Gallery
Popular theme parks little known by Americans

Liseberg Amusement Park, Sweden

Visitors in 2015: 3,100,000

Photo: Getty

Port Aventura, Spain

Visitors in 2015: 3,600,000

Photo: Getty

Kings Island, Ohio

Visitors in 2015: 3,335,000

Photo: Getty

Canada's Wonderland, Canada

Visitors in 2015: 3,617,000

Photo: Getty

Knott's Berry Farm, California

Visitors in 2015: 3,867,000

Photo: Getty

China Dinosaurs Park, China

Visitors in 2015: 3,950,000

Photo: Wikimedia

Songcheng Lijiang Romance Theme Park, China

Visitors in 2015: 4,678,000

Photo: Getty

Efteling, Denmark

Visitors in 2015: 4,680,000

Photo: Getty

Europa Park, Germany

Visitors in 2015: 5,500,000

Photo: Getty

Tivoli Gardens, Denmark

Visitors in 2015: 4,733,000

Photo: Getty

Nagashima Spa Land, Japan

Visitors in 2015: 5,870,000

Photo: Getty

Hangzhous Songcheng Park, China

Visitors in 2015: 7,289,000

Photo: Getty

Lotte World, South Korea

Visitors in 2015: 7,310,000  

Photo: Getty

Ocean Park, Hong Kong

Visitors in 2015: 7,387,000

Photo: Reuters

Everland, South Korea

Visitors in 2015: 7,423,000

Photo: Getty

Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, China

Visitors in 2015: 7,486,000  

Photo: Getty

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Wartinger and his colleague, Marc Mitchell, tested the idea by using a silicone model kidney filled with urine and real kidney stones, then carrying it onto the ride in a backpack, positioned to align with the actual location of the kidneys. The silicone mold was 3D printed using a CT scan of an actual kidney. The silicone was chosen after thought was given to other options, including ballistic gel (which fell apart after use) and cow and pig kidneys, which the authors note in the paper would have been poor choices "owing to ambient temperature and the inappropriate display of such material in a family-friendly amusement park."

For the purposes of this study, they rode the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 60 times with the fake kidney, noting the position of the kidney stones and re-positioning any that had become dislodged after each ride, and standing in line along with everyone else at Disney to determine where on the ride they would sit. They found that sitting in the front part of the ride resulted in a passage rate of 16.67 percent, while sitting in the back resulted in passing a kidney stone 63.89 percent of the time.

The exact mechanisms by which roller coasters help dislodge a kidney stone are still unknown, but Wartinger does have some ideas as to what's going on. "We know that the moderate intensity coaster worked. You don't need 70 mile an hour coasters, you don't need precipitous drops, you don't need inversions, you don't need high speed turns. What I think is happening is we're vibrating the stones loose." Wartinger says.

But before everyone rushes to Disney World with doctor's notes, it's important to note that this was only one model with one set of kidney stones. The interior of kidneys are unique to each person, and kidney stones also grow in many different shapes and sizes, so this isn't a one-size-fits-all roller coaster solution.

Photos of the newest Disney resort in Shanghai:

25 PHOTOS
Shanghai Disney resort opening
See Gallery
Shanghai Disney resort opening
People visit at Shanghai Disney Resorts as part of the three-day Grand Opening events in Shanghai, China, June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
Mickey Mouse shaped balloons are seen at Shanghai Disney Resort during a three-day Grand Opening event in Shanghai, China, June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng, (L) Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, (C) and Disney's Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger pose as they cut the red ribbon during the opening ceremony at Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
Fireworks explode over the Shanghai Disney Resort during the opening ceremony in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
Disney's Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger (C) poses with volunteers at Shanghai Disney Resort during the opening ceremony in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
A girl takes pictures after opening ceremony at Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
Women wearing Mickey Mouse ears watch the opening ceremony at Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
The first visitor reacts as he enters the Shanghai Disney Resort after the opening ceremony of the Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
The first visitor reacts as he enters the Shanghai Disney Resort after the opening ceremony of the Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People visit Shanghai Disney Resort during a three-day Grand Opening event in Shanghai, China, June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man uses his mouth to hold an umbrella while carrying a child as they enter the Shanghai Disney Resort after the opening ceremony of the Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
People line up to enter the Shanghai Disney Resort after the opening ceremony of the Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
People line up to enter the Shanghai Disney Resort after the opening ceremony of the Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
People line up to enter the Shanghai Disney Resort after the opening ceremony of the Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
A man wears Mickey Mouse ears as he attends the opening ceremony at Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
A woman wearing Mickey Mouse ears watches the opening ceremony at Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
People line up to enter the Shanghai Disney Resort after the opening ceremony of the Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
People visit Shanghai Disney Resort after the opening ceremony in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
SHANGHAI, CHINA - JUNE 16: Tourists watch a parade at Shanghai Disney Resort on June 16, 2016 in Shanghai, China. Shanghai Disney Resort held the opening ceremony and welcomed tourists on Thursday. (Photo by Visual China/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - JUNE 16: Tourists watch a fountain at Shanghai Disney Resort on June 16, 2016 in Shanghai, China. Shanghai Disney Resort held the opening ceremony and welcomed tourists on Thursday. (Photo by Visual China/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - JUNE 16: (CHINA OUT) Tourists walk in the Shanghai Disney Resort after the opening ceremony on June 16, 2016 in Shanghai, China. Shanghai Disney Resort held the opening ceremony and welcomed tourists on Thursday. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - JUNE 16: (CHINA OUT) Tourists visit the Shanghai Disney Resort during the grand opening on June 16, 2016 in Shanghai, China. Shanghai Disney Resort held the opening ceremony and welcomed tourists on Thursday. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - JUNE 16: Tourists watch the opening ceremony at Shanghai Disney Resort on June 16, 2016 in Shanghai, China. Shanghai Disney Resort held the opening ceremony and welcomed tourists on Thursday. (Photo by Visual China/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - JUNE 16: (CHINA OUT) Fireworks explode over the Shanghai Disney Resort during the grand opening on June 16, 2016 in Shanghai, China. Shanghai Disney Resort held the opening ceremony and welcomed tourists on Thursday. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"The recommendation isn't go to Disney World and ride this one coaster" Wartinger says. "Amusement theme park rides of moderate intensity have the potential to dislodge stones. So whatever coaster or park catches your fancy, you can probably benefit from attending."

Wartinger says that three types of people could probably benefit the most from a roller coaster prescription: people that have small kidney stones, people that have had an operation to break a larger kidney stone into smaller pieces, and women who have small kidney stones and are trying to get pregnant (vitamin supplements taken with pregnancy can cause kidney stones to grow larger).

If he can get more cooperation from other theme parks, Wartinger hopes to expand the study to look at how other roller coasters affect kidney stones. And it's not just people here on the ground that might benefit.

Kidney stones are a huge problem for astronauts on long-term missions in micro-gravity environments. While building a roller-coaster in space might be impossible, Wartinger says that it might be possible to build a device that could spin people around, jarring the stones loose, no roller-coaster required.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners

20 Folks Recall Shocking Interview Moments That Made Them NOT Want the Job 20 Folks Recall Shocking Interview Moments That Made Them NOT Want the Job
Man Felt Something Inside His Nose - But What Doctors Pull Out Leaves Everyone Stunned Man Felt Something Inside His Nose - But What Doctors Pull Out Leaves Everyone Stunned
Rescuer Sees Bumps All Over This Dog's Skin - Then X-Rays Reveal The Tragic Story Rescuer Sees Bumps All Over This Dog's Skin - Then X-Rays Reveal The Tragic Story