While trying to pass kidney stones is not a pleasant experience, the passing of the kidney stone from your body will largely depend on the size and location of your kidney stone. If you have a relatively small kidney stone (less than 4mm), this will likely pass on its own, albeit painfully. If your stone is 5mm or larger, you’ll likely require intervention from a doctor to help you pass the stone. These four ways to treat kidney stones will have you back to your normal self before you know it.

1. Natural Treatments

Naturally passing a kidney stone only works if your kidney stone is small. You can help break up kidney stones with a variety of natural home remedies, including drinking lemon water, lemon mixed with olive oil, or raw apple cider vinegar. In addition to this, you need to drink plenty of water as this will help to flush the stone out as well. Along with the natural passing of your kidney stone, your doctor may prescribe you an alpha-blocker, which can help relax the muscles in your urethra to help you pass the stone more easily and reduce your pain. While natural passing of your stone can be very painful, it’s a common way to pass small stones. If your stone is larger and cannot exit through your urethra, you’ll need to discuss other procedures with your doctor.

2. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)

This treatment is fairly common for those who have kidney stones, and only takes about an hour. Your doctor will use shock waves to break up the kidney stone into smaller pieces, and these smaller pieces will be much easier to pass out of your body naturally after this treatment. This outpatient treatment cannot be done on patients who are very obese or pregnant patients. You may be lightly sedated for this treatment, although there are some complications that can result including pain, bleeding, or a urinary tract infection. Discuss ESWL with your doctor to understand the full risks and benefits of this procedure for your kidney stones.

3. Ureteroscopy

A ureteroscopy is usually done by a urologist who puts an instrument into your urethra to see where the kidney stone is located. Your doctor needs to see the position of the stone in order to properly remove it. Your doctor will then insert another instrument that has a type of “grab” device on the end that will wrap around the stone and be able to effectively pull it out. If your kidney stones are a little larger, your doctor may need to break them up into smaller pieces before they can be removed. This procedure works well when your kidney stone is nearer to your bladder than to your kidneys.

4. Surgery

If your kidney stones are quite large or cannot be passed out of the urinary tract for another reason such as a previous surgery or infection, surgery may be required to effectively remove the stone. While surgery is not normally needed for most kidney stones, you and your doctor will decide if surgery is the best route for you based on the kidney stone’s size, location, and current condition. Some kidney stones can block urine flow and need to be removed via surgery.

One type of surgery your doctor may suggest is percutaneous nephrolithotomy. In this procedure, the surgeon will enter your body through your back to get the kidney stones out. Your doctor may be able to remove the kidney stones whole or they may have to break them up into pieces before they can be removed. This is an inpatient procedure and usually requires a brief hospital stay. If you have a larger stone, surgery may work better for you than ESWL or a ureteroscopy.

Treatment for your kidney stones will likely be at least a little painful. While your doctor can prescribe painkillers or an alpha-blocker to help, the experience is not pleasant. If you have a larger stone that needs additional assistance to exit the body, you and your doctor will discuss the treatment that is best for you.