Kidney stones can cause severe pain in the lower back area. There is also often nausea and vomiting.

IT IS a ‘fact’ men don’t quibble with if they have any sense – nothing compares to the pain of childbirth.

But now medics who dared to question the assumption have found it isn’t actually true.

They discovered that, when objectively assessed, having kidney stones is more painful than being in labour.

Mothers who had experienced both childbirth and kidney stones, often rated the latter as the more painful of the two experiences, the research team found.

Most men who had suffered kidney stones said they imagined what they had been through wasn’t nearly as bad as having a baby.

Study author Saiful Miah, clinical lecturer in urology at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, said: ‘We asked 19 women who had experienced both kidney stones and childbirth which was more painful. The majority thought their kidney stone pain was a lot worse than childbirth.

‘But when we asked men who’d experienced kidney stones what they imagined was worse, most imagined childbirth was worse.’

Mr Miah said he worked with a consultant urologist early in his career who would ask women to assess how bad their pain was when trying to diagnose their problem.

This was because in those days, there was only occasional access to the type of scanner now used to help diagnose kidney stones accurately. He added: ‘This consultant would often ask women who had been through childbirth, “what’s more painful: what you are experiencing now, or giving birth?”

‘If the woman said, “actually this is more painful,” the consultant would say, “there’s your diagnosis – it’s kidney stones.”?’

The results of the study have just been published in the Journal of Pain Research. Of the 19 women questioned, 12 said kidney stones were more painful and another three ‘felt that the intensity of pain was similar’. Four said childbirth was more painful.

Mr Miah went on: ‘What’s interesting is that when a woman goes into labour, she will rapidly get all sorts of painkillers and attention.

‘But with kidney stones, a lot of people just have to suffer.’

Kidney stones are small, hard masses that form in the kidneys, consisting of minerals such as calcium. The pain is felt when they pass down the ureters from the kidneys to the bladder.

One option for dealing with them is so-called ‘conservative’ treatment, where nature is left to take its course.

Patients are given painkillers but otherwise told to go away, grin and bear it.

Mr Miah said: ‘They can take two to four weeks to pass. It’s the most painful way, but it does mean you don’t have to be operated on.’

Other methods include surgical removal or blasting them with high-frequency shock waves, to shatter them into tiny fragments. The method chosen often depends on how big the stones are and where they are positioned.

© Mail On Sunday