If you have ever suffered from back pain, you will know how overwhelming it can be. Back pain isn’t always caused by a serious underlying condition, but it’s always debilitating.
Have you ever considered that your back pain might be originating from your gut? Let’s dive into the surprising connection between back pain and constipation.
Causes of back pain
Back pain is a fairly common complaint and can be brought on by a large number of factors, including damage resulting from strain, medical conditions or poor posture.
Most commonly, back pain is caused by strained muscles or ligaments, muscle spasms, muscle tension, damaged disks and injury.
Strains and spasms can happen easily if you lift something improperly, lift something that is too heavy, or make a sudden, unusual movement.
Structural problems that can bring on back pain include:
- Rupturing one of the discs that are located between each vertebra for cushioning purposes will place pressure on a nerve, causing pain.
- Just like ruptured discs, bulging discs can increase pressure on the nerve.
- Sciatica is a sharp, shooting pain that travels through the bum and down the back of the leg. This happens when a muscle pushes specifically on the sciatic nerve.
- Osteoarthritis can cause back pain when it affects joints in the hips and lower back.
- You can experience pain if your spine curves in an unusual way, such as in the case of scoliosis patients.
- Kidney problems can give you back pain.
Everyday activities such as coughing, sneezing, stretching too hard, standing or sitting for too long, straining your neck, driving too long without a break and sleeping on an unsupportive mattress can all cause back pain.
The following medical conditions can also be behind your back pain:
- Cauda equina syndrome. The cauda equina is a bundle of spinal nerve roots on the lower end of the spinal cord.
- If you have cancer of the spine, a tumour can press against a nerve, causing pain.
- A sensitive, warm area on the back along with a fever could be indicative of infection of the spine. Other infections, such as bladder infection, can also cause back pain.
- People with sleep disorders are more likely to experience back pain than others.
- Shingles can cause back pain.
How to tell if back pain is more serious
It’s completely possible that your back pain will resolve on its own, depending on what caused it. If, however, it doesn’t, and goes on for longer than three months, it’s best to have it checked out.
Pain that radiates, in other words, moves to other parts of your body, are also worth a visit to the GP. Especially if it’s causing numbness or tingling in your butt, genitals, legs, feet, arms or hands.
Another cause for concern is when your back pain limits your range of motion. For example, you might struggle to tie your shoes or to reach overhead.
This could be a sign of a chronic condition and is best discussed with a medical professional.
Can constipation cause back pain?
The short answer is yes. Constipation and back pain can go hand in hand for various reasons. It could be as simple as developing back pain because you are altering your posture in order to find relief from constipation.
There are a number of conditions that could cause you to experience constipation and back pain at the same time. Have a look at the following:
When hard, dry stool collects in the intestine it forms a bowel obstruction. This results in pressure in the rectum or colon, causing pain to radiate to the back.
In this condition, tissue similar to the tissue that lines the uterus, starts to grow in other places, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowel and bladder.
Along with constipation the most common symptoms are back pain, lower abdominal pain and severe menstrual cramps.
This condition sees patients experience increased sensitivity to pain. Lower back pain and gastrointestinal symptoms are common.
Inflammatory bowel disease
This includes conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which is associated with intestinal inflammation.
Inflammatory bowel disease is also associated with ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine.
Irritable bowel syndrome
About 10 to 15 percent of the world population suffers from IBS. Both constipation and diarrhoea, as well as bloating and cramping are all included in the uncomfortable symptoms patients experience.
This includes cancer, cirrhosis and hepatitis, and symptoms include nausea, constipation, abdominal pain, swelling and itching. The type of liver disorder will determine the exact location of the back pain.
Lower back pain, for example, is a common symptom of cirrhosis. With liver inflammation pain typically occurs in the upper back on the right.
While pancreatic cancer doesn’t initially cause symptoms, patients experience a range of symptoms as it progresses.
Back pain, abdominal pain and digestive problems occur, and the treatment for pancreatic cancer can also contribute to patients experiencing constipation.
As the foetus grows, you will experience more and more pressure on your back. Meanwhile, increasing progesterone levels are possibly giving you constipation.
Getting older is not for the faint-hearted, and you will be more likely to simultaneously experience constipation and back pain as you age.
The discs in your back also lose flexibility and fluid as you get older, which reduces their shock absorbing abilities. This makes back pain a more likely possibility as time passes.
Managing constipation-related back pain
A healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce your odds of suffering from constipation as well as the back pain that will in some cases accompany it.
A diet rich in fibre, plenty of exercise and drinking enough water is essential for the prevention of constipation.
If resolving your constipation does not improve your back pain, it’s likely that they are not related and you might have to investigate further with the help of a medical professional.
Constipation is probably the last thing you’ll think about when considering the causes of back pain. But the human body is intricate and it is indeed a possibility.
A healthy lifestyle will resolve most issues, unless something more serious is going on. If you are experiencing persistent and severe back pain, consult a health professional for appropriate treatment options.