Constipation can be caused by many factors. We'll explore the many factors and the question of can constipation cause back pain?
·September 2nd, 2021
Constipation can be a difficult topic and one question people often wonder about is can constipation cause back pain?
There are many potential causes to constipation including lack of exercise, not drinking enough fluids, not eating enough fiber, stress, medications etc.
Constipation or stool consistency can exacerbate back pain in people with chronic pain.
Other causes of back pain can include: fecal impaction, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and colon or rectal cancer (though this is rare).
If your lower back pain and constipation go away within a few days, it’s possible that your back pain and constipation are connected.
But if your symptoms persist, reach out to your doctor or complementary healthcare provider for more information.
We get it—when it comes to health and wellness, some topics are easier to talk about than others. Constipation, most commonly marked by infrequent or difficult bowel movements, is one of those hard-to-broach topics. One question you may be wondering is can constipation cause back pain.
An estimated 40% to 60% of adults struggle regularly with constipation. But the symptoms and experiences of constipation can vary from person-to-person. And if it’s your first time struggling with constipation, it may be especially difficult to discern whether symptoms you’re experiencing like back pain or abdominal pain are a result of constipation or something else.
If you’re looking for a natural approach, working with a specialist like a homeopath or a dietitian or nutritionist can be enormously helpful. They can work with you to assess your symptoms and develop an approach that works for your unique circumstances.
What is constipation?
Constipation is commonly described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. If you have chronic constipation, you may experience some symptoms of constipation, including infrequent bowel movements or lumpy, hard or dry stools, for several weeks or longer.
For some, the symptoms of chronic constipation can interrupt day-to-day life, making it difficult to perform tasks or enjoy daily activities.
What’s causing my constipation?
Keep in mind that you may not always be able to identify the root cause of your constipation. Still, there are some common culprits:
Not drinking enough fluids
Eating a low-fiber diet
Lack of exercise
A recent change in diet
Certain medications or supplements (including antacids, diuretics, narcotics, and some medications used to treat depression)
Hormone changes (including those related to pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause)
In many cases, making a lifestyle change can help to soothe your symptoms and encourage regular bowel movements. Good bowel habits such as exercising daily, drinking plenty of fluids or water, and eating high-fiber foods are a few examples that prove effective for many people.
But if lifestyle changes aren’t cutting it, don’t worry. There are other options, including prescription medications and over-the-counter supplements or laxatives. If you’re unsure of where to start, reach out to your provider for more information.
Is my back pain caused by constipation?
One study found that the association between constipation or stool consistency can exacerbate back pain in people with chronic pain. In other words, if you have chronic pain that you experience in the lower back or lower limbs, having constipation or harder stools can make this pain worse.
For most people, back pain is not a sign of constipation. Instead, the most common symptoms of constipation include:
Having fewer than three bowel movements a week
Stools that are hard, dry, or lumpy
Stools that are difficult or painful to pass
Feeling that not all stool has passed
Straining to have bowel movements
Needing help to empty your bowels, including using your hands to press on your stomach
However, some people report that the feeling of being “backed up” can cause pain in their stomach that can sometimes extend to the lower back.
Common bowel-related causes of back pain
The truth is: For most people, back pain (especially if it’s moderate to severe) is unlikely to be caused by constipation.
If you’re experiencing some of the common symptoms of constipation, here are some of the other conditions that could cause back pain:
Fecal impaction is a large lump of dry, hard stool that is difficult to pass. Though most commonly seen in the elderly, this type of bowel obstruction can affect anyone who experiences persistent or chronic constipation. Unfortunately, frequent use of laxatives can also increase the risk of fecal impaction.
In addition to lower back pain, possible symptoms of fecal impaction include rectal bleeding, abdominal pain or cramping, rapid heartbeat or lightheadedness. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of fecal impaction, reach out to your provider.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a common gastrointestinal disorder that can cause chronic cramping, stomach pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation (or both). Additionally, a systematic review from 2015 found that chronic low back pain (along with other types of chronic pain conditions) can frequently occur in people with IBS.
Colon cancer or rectal cancer
Though rare, back pain and constipation may be a sign of colon or rectal cancer. Speak with your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the following symptoms along with constipation and lower back pain:
Bleeding from your rectum
Blood in your stool
Persistent stomach pain
Inability to pass gas
Inadvertent weight loss
Common non bowel-related causes of back pain
Other conditions that could cause back pain but would not be associated with symptoms of constipation include:
Urinary tract infection
Constipation can be frustrating and having back pain can make it even more difficult to take care of yourself. If you’re experiencing dull lower back pain and constipation that go away within a few days, it’s possible that your back pain and constipation are connected.
But if you’re experiencing back pain and other bothersome symptoms that persist, reach out to your doctor or complementary healthcare provider for more information. Check out Bright Belly’s list of complementary providers who can meet your needs.