Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running

Kidney Stone

Stone on the Road

Published April 2, 2001 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

The pain woke me up from a deep sleep. The clock read 4:30am. It was a gripping pain in my lower left back. My wife slept peacefully next to me. My meager knowledge of gross anatomy suggested a kidney stone. I tried rolling into a comfortable position, but found none. The pain grew worse.

At sunrise, my wife drove me to a nearby urgent care clinic, and left me at the mercy of two runners. Nurse Roxanne was a marathoner and a triathlete. Karl was a veteran of many 20K folks-marches that he ran. With the sense of humor of real runners, they relished caring for a fallen comrade.

At first, they denied me painkillers with a smile: "to get this, you must fill that." They sought evidence of the cause of pain. Blood in my urine satisfied their curiosity, and confirmed my predicament. The treatment of kidney stones is one of pain management and wait-and-see.

The acute pain subsided when the stone moved from my kidney to my bladder. Karl observed that I was no longer in enough pain. X-rays showed nothing abnormal, assuming that runners can be called normal. Next, we waited for the stone. We had to catch it this time.

Four hours later and a quarter gallon of intravenous solution laced with narcotics, I passed a lentil-shaped stone into a strainer. My new friends wondered at its beauty. Receipt in hand, my wife took me out for a cup of fat-free cappuccino and a croissant. My stone went to the lab for a crushing ending.

This was my second bout with kidney stones since I started running. Both attacks occurred in the early hours of the morning. The first time, the stone passed unnoticed. Thorough testing showed no genetic predisposition. Alas, my environment may be the great culprit.

Research shows that distance runners are six times more likely to develop kidney stones than non-runners. The causality is obvious. We require eight glasses of water per day for routine functions and an extra glass per 20 minutes of running. Since few runners drink a gallon of water each day, most of us live in a chronic state of dehydration.

The onset of attacks in the early hours of the morning is no coincidence either. Since few of us drink before going to bed, let alone in our sleep, our bodies dry up even more, and challenge the kidneys further.

As I await the lab results on my stone, I have set my stopwatch to beep every hour to remind me to drink- water, not coffee. Depending on the mineral composition of my stone, a change in diet may reduce the chances of recurrence. I am confident that replacing lima beans with chocolate cake will dissolve my stones into a distant memory.

Kamal Jabbour is back on the roads, none for the worse from his ordeal. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at

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