We've all experienced back pain at one time or another. In fact, back pain is one of the top reasons people see a doctor.
Some may shrug it off as sleeping wrong or overdoing it at the gym. However, there are many reasons why back pain occurs, including a condition you may not relate it to right away: constipation.
We put together this guide to explain more on the connection between back pain and constipation and explore other reasons for both conditions to help you determine if what you are experiencing might be related.
What is constipation?
Constipation is having less than three bowel movements a week, as well as stools that are hard, dry, or lumpy, and painful to pass, or feeling incomplete evacuation of stool.
Chronic constipation occurs when a person experiences infrequent bowel movements and/or difficult stools that continue for several weeks or longer.
Causes of constipation
Occasional constipation is common, and most of us experience it at some points in our lives. However, chronic constipation can interfere with the ability to go about daily tasks. There are many possible causes of constipation, including:
Neurological conditions that cause issues with nerves around the colon and rectum, like autonomic neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, a spinal cord injury, or stroke
Imbalance of hormones from conditions like diabetes, hyperparathyroidism, pregnancy, and hypothyroidism
Risk factors of constipation
Being an older adult
Being a woman
Insufficient fiber in diet
Little or no physical activity
Changes in daily routine - traveling, eating habits, sleep times
Mental health conditions like depression and eating disorders
What is back pain?
Back pain can vary from a muscle aching to a shooting, burning, or piercing sensation. The pain may also radiate down your leg or feel worse when you move a certain way.
There are two types of back pain:
Acute - pain that lasts a few days to a few weeks. It typically resolves on its own within that time with self-care.
Chronic pain continues for 12 weeks or longer, even after an injury or treatment of the underlying cause of acute back pain.
Cause of back pain
As we age, the chances of experiencing back pain increase, although it can affect people of any age for various reasons. Some of the causes for back pain are:
Skeletal irregularities (i.e., scoliosis, lordosis, and kyphosis).
Intervertebral disc degeneration
Arthritis/other inflammatory diseases
Spinal nerve compression, inflammation and/or injury
Herniated or ruptured discs
Constipation and back pain
When the colon or rectum becomes blocked, there is also a chance that you will feel a dull pain from your abdomen to your lower back. This blockage can be a result of fecal impaction or general constipation.
Fecal impaction happens when a large lump of dry, hard stool gets stuck in the rectum or colon. The back pain arises from the pressure on the rectum or colon. On the other hand, constipation could be a side effect of whatever is causing the back pain, like a tumor or infection. Some other conditions which can cause constipation and back pain at the same time include:
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Liver diseases ( cancer, cirrhosis, and hepatitis)
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Constipation and back pain can be symptoms of a single condition or unrelated symptoms coinciding. And though rare, constipation with back pain can signify rectal or colon cancer.
In addition to back pain, there are other symptoms of constipation, including; fewer than three bowel movements a week, difficulty passing stools that are dry, hard, and/or lumpy, stomach ache/cramps, bloody stool, bloating, and nausea.
Make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the above symptoms. Treatment options are available depending on the cause of constipation, though sometimes there is no explanation on why it's happening.
Your healthcare provider may advise changing what you eat and drink, becoming more active, or taking over-the-counter medicines, such as stool softeners or laxatives. If these treatments don't work, they may prescribe medication, like Motegrity or Linzess, or recommend biofeedback or surgery.
You should always consult your physician before starting any medications, including over-the-counter medicines.