For anyone who suffers from the agony of kidney stones, the news last week that riding on a rollercoaster can cure them may make a trip to the nearest theme park seem like a good idea.
In fact, these fairground thrill machines have been found to bring an astounding array of medical benefits, from easing asthma and deafness to helping one woman combat cancer.
The novel kidney stone cure was revealed by researchers at Michigan State University in the U.S.
They’d been inspired to look at this by stories of kidney stone patients who reported that riding on Walt Disney World’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad had helped them pass the troublesome growths.
One patient reported going on the ride three times and each time passing a stone afterwards.
Kidney stones occur when waste products in the blood, such as uric acid or calcium, build up into crystals that solidify into stone-like lumps.
They affect around one in six men and one in ten women — people who don’t drink enough fluids are more at risk.
Most stones are small enough (less than 4mm in diameter) to be passed in urine. Larger ones can get stuck in the kidneys, causing pain and nausea. They may need to be broken up using ultrasound or laser energy.
To find out how the rollercoaster might help, the Michigan researchers rode it all day while carrying a life-size replica of the kidney of a patient who’d passed stones after the ride.
The replica kidney, made from silicone, was filled with urine and three stones.
The researchers discovered that the ride’s ‘rattles, sharp turns and ups and downs’ dislodged the stones.
Where they sat on the ride also significantly altered the number passed, they reported in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.
Sitting at the back shifted the most — two-thirds, compared with under a fifth at the front.
This is possibly because the rear carriage whips over the peaks fastest, as the front carriage has already started to accelerate down the next drop.
Lead researcher David Wartinger, an emeritus professor of urology, said last week: ‘My advice would be, if you have a stone capable of passage, then go to an amusement park and ride everything.’
Rollercoasters are not usually known for health benefits. Mostly, they hit the headlines following accidents, such as the crash at Alton Towers last year, in which two young women tragically lost a leg.
Moreover, researchers have generally concentrated on reports of riders injuring their necks and heads.
Doctors at the Hennepin County Medical Centre, Minneapolis, reported in the Annals of Emergency Medicine that, over a 20-year period, U.S. rollercoaster rides had been blamed for four cases of brain bruising, six burst arteries, three haemorrhages and a stroke.
Dr Jurgen Koschyk, a cardiologist at University Hospital in Mannheim, Germany, found that the intensely racing hearts the rides induce can cause arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, in some people, which may spur more serious issues.
Nevertheless, other reports show surprising benefits.
While riding a rollercoaster is supposed to take your breath away, Dutch psychologists have found it can do just the opposite for asthma sufferers.
They took 25 women who suffered with severe asthma on a series of rides and discovered that the euphoric thrill tended subsequently to reduce their dyspnoea — the shortness of breath characteristic of the condition.
The short-term burst of extreme physical stress appears to relax asthmatics’ airways, improving their symptoms, the University of Amsterdam researchers reported in 2007 in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy.
The sheer thrill of the ride may help, too. Adrenaline is often used as a therapeutic drug for severe asthmatics: it sets off a reaction that relaxes the muscles in the lungs’ bronchial tubes, helping sufferers to breathe more easily.
With all that screaming, it seems strange to think riding a rollercoaster could rescue your hearing.
But that is just what happened to a 16-year-old schoolgirl who had become a patient at Leighton General Hospital, Crewe, in 2011.
She was referred there after becoming deaf in one ear after a holiday flight. As the plane descended, her ear had become severely muffled and painful.
The hearing loss persisted for two months, but suddenly cured itself after she rode the Rita, Queen Of Speed rollercoaster at Alton Towers.
Writing in the Indian Journal of Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery, her doctors suggested the sudden change in air pressure on plummeting, combined with the extreme gravitational force, created a pulse of energy that cleared her inner ear.
Meanwhile, a theme park ride in Florida caused a British woman’s brain tumour to be found early enough to be removed safely.
Sally Dare, from Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, was on a family holiday when she went on rollercoaster The Incredible Hulk.
Afterwards, the mother-of-two complained of headaches and blurred vision.
‘It was a pretty forceful ride and I was thrown about and my head was banged quite a lot,’ she says. ‘I felt awful afterwards, but the headaches just seemed like others I’d had, so I thought nothing of it.’
By the end of the holiday, her headaches became serious. Sally became debilitatingly dizzy, too, then found she could not remember certain words and her sight had become too blurred to read.
Her arms also started to tingle.
Back at home, Sally’s GP referred her to a neurosurgeon: within days, she was diagnosed with a 2cm malignant brain tumour and it was removed.
The consultant told her that the shuddering and jolting of the ride had probably dislodged the tumour, putting pressure on parts of her brain — causing the different symptoms and leading to its early detection.
‘Usually, they can go undetected until they are inoperable and the size of a tangerine,’ Sally said.
‘Who would have thought a holiday would trigger something like this? Going on the rollercoaster helped me. But I don’t think I will ever set foot on one again.’
Source: Daily Mail
(Dhaka times/5 October/SUL)