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Can constipation cause back pain?


Constipation and back pain

Lower back pain and constipation are frequently experienced symptoms among people. Interestingly, these two conditions often coexist, leading to notable impacts on daily life and work performance. It's important to recognize the potential consequences of their simultaneous occurrence and the adverse effects they can have.

Causes

Constipation is characterized by alterations in bowel habits, including infrequent bowel movements or the passage of hard, dry stools. Several factors can contribute to its development, such as stress, irregular or unhealthy eating patterns, dehydration, long-standing habits from childhood, improper use of supplements or over-the-counter products, and even undiagnosed medical conditions like depression.

Symptoms

Constipation presents with a range of symptoms, including referred pain, cramps, tightness, indigestion, a feeling of fullness or pressure in the abdomen, and increased flatulence. Less common symptoms may include reduced appetite, decreased energy levels, and lower back pain.

When constipation occurs, it leads to a blockage in the bowels, causing an accumulation of stool and exerting intense pressure on the rectum. If a large mass of stool becomes stuck in the colon and cannot be expelled, it can result in a condition called fecal impaction. The main cause of fecal impaction is recurring and untreated constipation.

Fecal impaction can cause significant discomfort in the abdomen and lower back, requiring medical attention to prevent further complications. The associated pain is often described as a dull ache in the lower back, as the impacted stool puts pressure on nearby structures. In severe cases, this pressure on the nerves can cause leg pain and numbness.

 

The other way around

Occasionally, it is the back condition itself that leads to constipation rather than the reverse. People experiencing back pain may develop constipation as a result of muscle splinting and guarding, which can reduce bowel motility. Additionally, the presence of back pain can contribute to decreased abdominal effort, further exacerbating constipation.

Treatments

The appropriate treatment for constipation and back pain depends on the underlying cause of the symptoms. It is crucial to have open and honest communication with your doctor during your appointment to accurately diagnose the root causes and determine the most effective treatments for both constipation and back pain.

Regardless of the severity, prompt treatment is essential for lower back pain, especially if constipation is the leading cause. It could indicate an underlying issue with your digestive system that needs immediate attention.

If you suspect fecal impaction, it is vital to seek medical attention to have the blockage removed, which may require surgery.

Generally, treatments for constipation are not as aggressive or complex as those for fecal impaction. In many cases, simple lifestyle changes such as adopting a high-fiber diet, using over-the-counter stool softeners, increasing water intake, and regular exercise can effectively treat and prevent general constipation.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the close proximity of the digestive tract to the back can lead to the manifestation of back pain symptoms when experiencing constipation. Both constipation and back pain are prevalent conditions that often occur concurrently.

While certain lifestyle factors like inadequate exercise or hydration can contribute to constipation, the presence of both constipation and back pain may indicate an underlying health condition. It is important to seek medical attention to identify and address any specific health issues that may be causing these interconnected problems.

Author Bio

Ines Pinheiro

Inês Pinheiro

Certified Physiotherapist for Shoulder and Knee Injuries

Inês is a skilled physical therapist with a special interest and extensive experience in working with athletes, specifically football players and also neurologic patients.

References
  1. Trager, R.J. et al. (2021) ‘Association between radicular low back pain and constipation: A retrospective cohort study using a real-world national database’, PAIN Reports, 6(3).
  2. Altug, Ziya (2016) Constipation and low back pain in an athlete: A case report, vol.28 Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Practice
  3. Can Constipation Cause Lower Back Pain? (2022) Spine & Rehab Group. Available at: https://www.thespineandrehabgroup.com/ (Accessed: 15 June 2023). 
  4. CAN CONSTIPATION CAUSE BACK PAIN? (2023) K Health. Available at: https://khealth.com/. 

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