IBS and back pain is a common search term online. You too might be wondering if ibs and back pain are related.
In this article, we will explain how IBS and back pain may be related. We will also cover some steps about how you can resolve back pain.
Is back pain a common symptom of IBS?
IBS back pain is not a common symptom nor is it on the list of symptoms needed to get an IBS diagnosis.
However, there are still many people that complain of back pain whilst they have IBS, so you are not alone in feeling this.
Back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal complaints of the adult population, affecting up to 84% (1).
Abdominal pain is seen as a common symptom of IBS but actually 53% of IBS sufferers also report other areas of pain in their body (2).
One study suggested that people who have IBS are 2.6 times more likely to have back pain than those without IBS (2).
Although there seems to be a link between IBS and backpain, this does not mean that IBS causes back pain. It is also important to know that backpain is a symptom of many conditions like fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis (1, 2).
So, please do not presume that if you have IBS your back pain is part of your condition. Backpain must be discussed with your doctor and further testing may be needed.
Other causes of back pain:
- Lack of movement
- Poor sleep
- Poor posture (1)
How does IBS cause back pain?
It is not completely clear how IBS causes back pain or if it does cause back pain at all. However, some links are suggested in the research.
Likewise, constipation can have the same effect. If you have both of these symptoms, you can expect that the pressure in the gut could lead to greater back pain.
Lots of nerves connecting the abdomen and the back are shared, if there is pain in the abdomen those pain signals could be sent to the back (3).
Another link that is based on research where some people with IBS have a dysfunction in the movement of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is important for stabilising the lower back whilst also supporting breathing (4).
Can I get rid of IBS back pain?
If you have had back pain for some time (i.e., after a few weeks) and it has not improved then you should go to your GP to rule out any other causes of the back pain before thinking it’s your IBS.
Depending on the cause of the back pain will determine the treatment.
If you think your back pain is related to IBS related to the possible mechanisms previously mentioned, then one way to help relieve back pain is to manage your IBS.
Many different factors contribute to managing IBS – unfortunately, there is no cure or specific treatment and is a very individual condition.
Below are a few different ways that can help to manage your IBS and back pain.
Activities such as pilates, yoga, swimming and walking can be effective for back pain relief (5). Likewise, yoga for IBS saw improvements in IBS symptom severity, improved physical function and improved mental health (6).
Back pain and IBS can be improved by movement such as yoga due to the increased need for flexibility, mobility and increased stability in muscles and joints, spinal alignment and posture (7).
Managing mental health to help IBS is often overlooked as a useful tool. However, evidence in this area relating to the gut-brain axis suggests that they are linked.
There are many different ways of managing your mental health for IBS, look for the best options for you. These can include; cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness, medication and hypnotherapy.
We all know that getting adequate sleep is good for our health.
Sleep insomnia exacerbates existing pain and sleep quality can predict pain the next day (8). However, it is hard to determine causality.
For those that experience pain daily, getting a more restful night’s sleep can increase pain tolerance (8). This means you are more able to manage the pain you feel.
If you are in pain in the first place, it is likely your sleep will be worse due to not being able to fall asleep or have restful sleep because of it.
Pain relief medications could supplement other treatments for back pain and IBS. It is best to discuss the best option for you with your doctor.
IBS and back pain are not specifically related nor is it included in how to get an IBS diagnosis.
However, it is suggested that symptoms of bloating and constipation, nerves between the abdomen and the lower back or reduced firing action of the diaphragm could point towards back pain in IBS.
If you are worried about the pain in your back you may be experiencing, then it’s suggested to go and see your GP to rule out any other causes.
Camilla Donaldson is a passionate UK qualified dietitian with a first-class post graduate diploma from Cardiff Metropolitan University. She is also a qualified REPS fitness instructor and is currently working as a band 5 Dietitian in North Wales.
Camilla is committed to supplying smart, quick and easy nutrition advice for individuals and group members to implement daily.
In addition to helping individuals, she works as a freelance nutrition writer here at the Food Treatment Clinic. Specialising in gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS, often busting nutrition myths!