Can irritable bowel syndrome cause back pain? Is there some relation, what are the treatment options, and can those therapies help with the aches, soreness, and overall discomfort? Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is not life-threatening but is definitely life-changing with the gas, bloating, abdominal pain and changes in bathroom habits. Many with IBS develop symptoms outside of the stomach. The most common is back pain. Here’s what to know.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic disorder that affects the lower part of the digestive tract. The common symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. There could be some combination of the two. Individuals also experience cramping, gas and bloating. Symptoms can be mild or severe and come and go. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all. Around 10-20% of adults have IBS, and women are twice as likely to develop the syndrome. It’s usually diagnosed in people under 50, and if a family has a history of IBS, this increases the chances of also having it.
The exact cause of IBS is still unknown, but it is believed to involve the way the brain interacts with the gastrointestinal tract.
- Hormone fluctuations
- Certain foods
These can trigger or worsen symptoms. There is no single test to diagnose IBS. Doctors rely on medical history, physical exams and ruling out other illnesses. No cure exists for IBS but there is a variety of treatments that can help relieve symptoms. Many experience anxiety along with job, school and relationship disruptions, all that can begin to lower quality of life.
IBS and Back Pain
Individuals can develop extraintestinal symptoms or symptoms involving other areas of the body.
- Sleep problems
- Urination problems
- Muscle pain
- Pelvic pain
- Jaw pain
- Back pain
Backaches and pain are common with irritable bowel syndrome. Studies have shown it affects 28-81 percent of individuals with the syndrome. Some believe that it is what is known as referred pain that originates elsewhere in the body and is felt in the back. Gastrointestinal symptoms like gas and bloating have been linked to back pain.
Other health conditions associated with back pain can also present at the same time. Interstitial cystitis is a chronic illness that causes bladder pressure and pain, and also cause fibromyalgia. 3 in 10 individuals with irritable bowel syndrome check-off the criteria for fibromyalgia. Rheumatoid arthritis is another condition.
Treatment is different for everyone. There are treatment options available. The best approach is usually a mix of these strategies. Treating the irritable bowel syndrome could also help ease back pain. Surgery is not needed for IBS-related back pain, as well as long-term painkillers. Speak with a healthcare provider to find the right combination for you.
Dietary changes: There is no specific diet for IBS but your doctor could recommend changing fiber intake or keeping a food diary to pinpoint foods that trigger symptoms. Limiting citrus, carbonated drinks, and foods that contain carbohydrates linked to gastrointestinal troubles. These include:
Stress reduction: People who experience high levels of stress can feel pain more intensely, whether gastrointestinal or back pain. Deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can help ease tensions. Exercise can also help like yoga, tai chi, walking, swimming, jogging, and biking are often recommended.
Therapy: Some individuals can benefit by speaking with a mental health professional. Studies have found that cognitive-behavioral therapy that shows you how to recognize and change stress response can be especially valuable for dealing with IBS and back pain.
Medication: Depending on the symptoms and underlying cause of the irritable bowel syndrome medication can help. Antidepressants are used to ease the pain for some patients, while anti-diarrheal loperamide is for reducing diarrhea in others. Discuss any medication you take with a doctor.
Functional medicine/Complementary health: Many find relief with alternative therapies. Hypnosis, for example, has been linked to improved gastrointestinal symptoms, lower levels of anxiety and other benefits.
Probiotics/supplements: Supplements are believed to help balance out beneficial gut bacteria. There is also evidence that probiotics can help relieve certain IBS symptoms. Ask your doctor if probiotics could help.
If you have irritable bowel syndrome along with back pain, get in touch with a healthcare provider. They can help you learn what is causing the uncomfortableness, test for other conditions and set up a treatment plan. The faster you reach out, the faster you can start to feel better.
Chronic Pain Care