Medically Reviewed by: Nicole Anne Vergara, RD
Perhaps you have read tons of articles regarding Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and all of the gastrointestinal symptoms that you may encounter throughout your healing journey.
We know that IBS can cause pain usually in the gut, but sometimes it can also project to other parts of your body like your back.
While back pain is mostly associated with fatigue or stress, having IBS and frequent back pain may be linked to each other.
You might be questioning yourself if your chronic back pain is associated with your IBS diagnosis, and all of the answers you are looking for are in this article.
You will find what exactly IBS back pain would feel like and all of the soothing techniques that you can do to help your back feel better.
Can IBS Cause Back Pain?
Yes, Irritable Bowel Syndrome can cause back pain. There have been proven statistics that between 68 to 81% of IBS patients are experiencing back pain.
Although the exact source of lower back discomfort associated with IBS is unknown, it is believed that inflammation and irregularities in the gastrointestinal tract are to blame.
Constipation episodes can cause the intestinal walls to physically swell, which could activate pain receptors in the lower back.
People diagnosed with IBS are more prone to have additional disorders including rheumatoid arthritis, interstitial cystitis (a painful bladder ailment), and fibromyalgia. They may also feel back discomfort (a condition marked by muscle spasms and stiffness).
A study also mentioned that back pain and IBS symptoms can be due to oversensitive nerves in the digestive tract.
These overly sensitive nerves transfer the physical pain stimuli to the stomach and cause a referred pain in your back.
What Does IBS Back Pain Feel Like?
It is possible that the abdominal discomfort associated with IBS is referred to the lower back. Referred pain happens when the perceived location of the pain is far from the actual source of the pain.
Imagine you are having severe abdominal pain and the pain is moving toward other parts of your body like your back. This is what IBS back pain would feel like.
There has also been an association between irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes pain and tenderness in the muscles and joints.
Fibromyalgia can occur in any part of the body, but if you have IBS, you are more likely to feel back pain too.
Take this quick questionnaire if you're unsure if your symptoms are related to IBS.
How To Relieve Back Pain Caused By IBS
You can always try to relieve your back pain at home through different techniques like the following:
Massages: Have a friend or your partner give you a back massage to relieve the pain in your back and relax your back muscles.
Deep breathing exercises: Deep breathing can help improve your mood and reduce the stress coming from the back pain that you are feeling.
Yoga: Yoga can help alleviate chronic back pain due to IBS.
Hot and cold compress. The application of ice and hot towels alternatively can help relieve the pain felt.
Pharmacological therapy (drugs) may be beneficial depending on your symptoms and, in certain situations, the underlying cause of your IBS.
For some people, antidepressants can alleviate discomfort, whilst for others, over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications like loperamide may lessen diarrhea.
However, if you take any medications, talk to your doctor about them because the wrong prescription could make your IBS worse.
Also, you have to take caution regarding the medicines that you take and always choose FDA-approved brands.
The best option for persons with IBS who have frequent pain is Tylenol (acetaminophen). NSAIDs like ibuprofen can cause gastrointestinal problems.
You can also try Lidocaine, which is one example of a topical medicine that can offer relief.
A healthcare professional may suggest prescription drugs like short-term muscle relaxants or steroid injections to reduce inflammation if the pain is severe.
Lifestyle and dietary changes
Targeting particular dietary triggers is a crucial aspect of controlling IBS.
Your doctor may advise avoiding foods and beverages that cause gas production if your back discomfort is being brought on by IBS-related gas movement.
IBS doesn't have a specific diet but it is highly recommended to go on a Low FODMAP diet.
Your doctor could advise altering your fiber intake or keeping a food journal to help identify foods that make you sick.
Additionally, they could advise cutting back on citrus, fizzy beverages, high-FODMAP foods, or foods that contain a carbohydrate associated with digestive issues.
Wheat, dairy products, and legumes are among them (beans). Since we are talking about dietary changes, adding probiotics and Low FODMAP nutritional supplements can greatly impact your overall health too.
For IBS symptoms including gas and general back pain, gentle physical exercise is usually preferable to lying down or being sedentary.
Exercise is also known to lower stress, which can cause IBS symptoms. Try to take 30 minutes of gentle exercises at least twice a week to relieve your back pain.
Acupuncture and chiropractic care are all helpful alternatives for treating back pain.
Acupuncture can help release pain-relieving chemicals from the brain that can help reduce the amount of pain felt in your lower back.
Regular chiropractic sessions can help to alleviate lower back pain by keeping the spine aligned and mobile.
This can help to prevent the build-up of tension in the lower back, which can lead to pain.
Additionally, cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques may be effective in improving the gut-brain connection that causes IBS symptoms to worsen due to stress.
When To See A Doctor
There are warning signs that you should not ignore when it comes to your IBS back pain.
If you have been noticing the symptoms below, visit your doctor as soon as possible.
Chronic pain in the back
Acute and severe abdominal pain
Treatment care plan is not providing any improvement and you are getting more severe back pains
Extreme changes in irritable bowel syndrome symptoms
Other IBS Warning Signs
Other warning signs not related to back pain but need urgent medical care are listed down below.
These conditions may indicate other gastrointestinal disorders or an inflammatory bowel disease that only your healthcare provider can confirm.
Frequent diarrhea especially at night
Severe weight loss
Frequent vomiting and nausea
Severe changes in bowel movement
A Holistic Way of Relieving IBS-related Back Pain
IBS physical symptoms like back pain can be a nuisance to your everyday life.
Your back pain may or may not be related to your IBS pain, but it is always better to seek professional help to confirm this.
The main goal of treating IBS is to focus on the predominant symptoms that you feel and manage them properly to help you achieve a better quality of life.
Start a holistic way of treating your IBS back pain! Casa De Sante provides IBS patients with an integrated nutrition care plan that involves helping you change your lifestyle, diet, and overall health condition all the way until your recovery.
Medically Reviewed by:
Onikepe Adegbola MD PhD is a board-certified physician who founded casadesante.com, a digital gut health platform for gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS, IBD, SIBO and celiac disease.