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."

Doctors at a British Hospital Are Now Prescribing Houseplants for Depression

Halfpoint/iStock via Getty Images
Halfpoint/iStock via Getty Images

You don’t have to take a trip to the countryside to reap the mental health benefits of being around nature—a single plant might just do the trick (as long as you can keep it alive).

Fast Company reports that the Cornbrook Medical Practice in Manchester, England, is one of the first in the country to prescribe houseplants to help treat anxiety and depression. It’s part of a horticultural therapy program led by a local nonprofit called Sow the City, which leads initiatives to foster community gardens in Manchester.

It’s just as much about building a sense of community through gardening as it is about the therapeutic advantages of caring for your own house plants. “There’s evidence that people who are socially isolated have worse health outcomes,” Sow the City director Jon Ross told Fast Company. The organization has also assisted Cornbrook Medical Practice in establishing its own herb garden, which patients are welcome to help maintain. Ross and his team work closely with doctors at different offices to optimize each garden for its particular clientele—sometimes, that means building a small, flora-filled sanctuary that’s just for rest and relaxation.

Other times, it’s a fully-fledged vegetable garden. For a “Hospital Beds” program at another hospital, Sow the City installed raised vegetable beds where long-term mental illness patients can soak in some sunlight, socialize with each other, and take pride in seeing the fruits (and vegetables) of their labors flourish. There’s an added physical health benefit, too: The patients get to eat the produce. “We really don’t have good food in our public hospitals,” Ross said.

Sow the City also makes sure that no green thumbs are necessary to participate in any gardening party. Its members populate the gardens with already-healthy, easy-to-tend plants, and they’ll even train patients on how to care for them.

If you’re thinking a garden might improve your own quality of life—doctor’s orders or not—here are 10 easy-to-grow plants for first-time gardeners.

[h/t Fast Company]

You’re Probably Brushing Your Teeth All Wrong

busracavus/iStock via Getty Images
busracavus/iStock via Getty Images

No matter how much you hate brushing your teeth, there's no getting around it: Regular brushing helps you maintain a healthy mouth as well as a healthy heart. But even if you've been doing it since you were tall enough to reach your bathroom sink, there's a chance you're not brushing your teeth properly. Fortunately, improving your brushing habits can be as simple as tweaking your technique and taking an extra minute out of your day.

According to Popular Science, the key to productive brushing is duration. Both the American Dental Association and the British Dental Association recommend brushing for at least two minutes at a time twice a day—usually in the morning and at night. Two minutes may not sound like a long time, but unless you're counting down the seconds, it's hard to know exactly how long you've brushed. The easiest fix for this is setting a timer: That way, you can brush mindlessly without worrying about when to stop.

That's not to say every brushing session that hits the two-minute mark will have the same results. When you brush, your goal should be to clean every tooth without abusing your gums. That means gently sweeping the bristles in short, back-and-forth motions at a 45-degree angle to your gums. If your gums feel sore, even after you switch to a gentler technique, the problem may lie in the brush itself. Make sure you choose a tool with soft bristles, as stiff bristles will only cause damage to the sensitive areas of your mouth.

Sometimes even setting a timer, upgrading your toothbrush, and improving your technique isn't enough to combat the central problem of oral hygiene: It isn't very exciting. The more you dislike brushing your teeth, the less likely you are to do it, so you should find any opportunity you can to make it a more rewarding experience. One trick is listening to your toothbrush sounds: Research has shown that people who listened to audio of their brushing played back to them felt cleaner and more accomplished afterwards.

[h/t Popular Science]

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