I’m a shower guy. Get in, get out, move on. My wife takes baths. She takes showers, too, and for the longest time I didn’t fully understand why she sometimes bathes and sometimes showers. That was before a few days ago, when for the first time in a decade I got a kidney stone. If you’ve ever had one you’ll agree there’s no better way to say this—kidney stones suck. They cause excruciating, chronic pain that comes in cruel, spasmodic waves, easing teasingly for a bit only to return even stronger. Women who have had them say kidney stones are as bad or worse than the pain of childbirth. Kidney stones make it easy for those who have endured them to empathize with what mothers go through to bring our children in to world. Except they can get epidurals and childbirth doesn’t typically last days or weeks.
When I read that a hot bath with Epsom salts could ease the pain of kidney stones I was skeptical. But when one is in pain one will try anything. The first time I lowered my overgrown frame, nauseous and short of breath into a hot Epsom salt bath it was like the heavens opened up—instant relief. I couldn’t believe it. Who knew? We’re so conditioned to think of drugs as our only source of pain relief. I felt as if I’d stumbled upon a tightly guarded secret. Yes, I found the suggestion on the internet, but it was outlier. Even my own primary care physician failed to suggest hot baths while refusing to prescribe some pain medication for me. “Go to the ER,” he said, “if the pain gets too bad.”
When I finally got in to see a urologist after three days of pain, I asked him why Epsom salts baths work so well to relieve kidney stone pain. He gave a brief explanation of how kidney stones cause pain and said, in short, that a hot bath shouldn’t really help all that much and perhaps it was psychological. Oh, but they do work, doc, at least for me. My oldest daughter, a nurse, said hot baths relax all your muscles which is why women sometimes give birth in them. Of course. But frankly, I don’t really care how they work. I’m just relieved they do. My wife, while happy I’ve found some relief, is not happy that from now one she’ll have to share the bath tub (and the hot water) with me. Because I’ve declared that from now on, whenever the pain gets too unbearable or I just want to relax, I’ll draw the water, throw in some salts and luxuriate in the miraculous healing gloriousness of a nice hot bath. I may even light a scented candle or two.