Just ask any one of the 300,000 Americans who develop kidney stones: What if the excruciating pain of passing one of those little devils could be prevented by strapping yourself into a make-believe runaway mine train, throwing your hands in the air and enduring G-forces as high as 2.5 for about three minutes? Would you do it?
Hell yeah, they'd do it.
In a bit of medical research inspired by strange and remarkable patient accounts, a Michigan State University urologist reports that, yes, riding a medium-intensity roller coaster such as the Disney theme parks' Big Thunder Mountain Railroad can result in the painless passing of small, and even a few large, kidney stones.
For best results, ride in the back, where -- roller coaster afficionados all seem to agree -- the thrills are greatest. Independent of kidney stone volume and location, findings reported Sunday in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Assn. showed that sitting in the back of the roller coaster resulted in an average passage rate of 63.89%.
Front-seat rides resulted in a far more modest passage rate of 16.67%.
In what magical kingdom, you may well ask, does someone think to conduct such research?
Dr. David D. Wartinger, a professor emeritus at Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine, initiated the study after a series of patients reported something almost too strange to believe: In the wake of riding Big Thunder at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., these patients said their kidney stones passed painlessly from the kidney through the narrow duct of the ureter and into the bladder. In one case, a patient told Wartinger that he passed one kidney stone after each of three consecutive rides on the roller coaster.
Roller coaster therapy might be a good preventive treatment for people who are high risk of developing obstructive kidney stones, wrote Wartinger and Mitchell. They suggested that patients who have had kidney stones in the past, or women who have had kidney stones and are thinking of becoming pregnant, consider a thrill ride or two in a bid to clear tiny stones before the deposits grow larger. Kidney stone sufferers who have had their deposits broken up by lithotripsy might also consider a roller-coaster ride to finish the job, they said.
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