‘Whee! I just passed a kidney stone’
Have a kidney stone? Well, step right up to the roller coaster! Researchers found taking a ride on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster at Walt Disney World in Orlando can cause kidney stones to pass.
Dr. David Wartinger, an author of the findings published in the journal of the American Osteopathic Association, said for years patients have told him that after riding Big Thunder their kidney stones passed. When one patient told Wartinger he passed several kidney stones after three consecutive rides, he “couldn’t ignore it anymore” and decided to conduct an experiment.
A urological surgeon and professor emeritus at Michigan State University, Wartinger tested the idea using a 3-D model of that patient’s kidney. He filled the kidney with stones and urine.
Wartinger and co-author Marc Mitchell rode the ride 60 times in various positions with the model kidney in a backpack. When riding in the rear of the coaster, stones passed 63.9% of the time. While in the front of the coaster, stones passed 16.6% of the time.
Wartinger said this is probably because at the end of the coaster, more force is generated to encourage stones to pass. Big Thunder is a relatively relaxing ride compared to big coasters, generating a maximum speed of 35 mph. “It’s not a high-end thrill ride,” Wartinger said. “People in wheelchairs ride it, elderly people” ride it.
Roller coasters like Big Thunder can be a legitimate solution to passing kidney stones, avoiding the pain and cost of hospital-related treatment when a stone becomes too large for natural bladder passage, he said. Treatment often involves medication, but this study is an example of “what we can do to prevent bad things from happening from the get-go,” he added.
Riding in the front of the coaster was less effective for passing kidney stones than riding in the back.