Updated: May 17
Back pain, gut issues- The Connection
Your body consists of many physiological systems that all work together to keep you healthy . If there is a problem with one of the systems, there is a health problem as conditions that affect that one bodily system affects the rest of the body. The body is constantly working to stay in homeostasis or optimal oscillations to keep the body average frequencies between 62 and 68 MHz. If it falls below that we start to get health problems.
People often find it surprising that there is a connection between your digestive system and your back pain. The back has some of the most common locations of pain symptoms for patients, but digestive system and back symptoms are rarely looked at at the same time unless you are looked at holistically.
Bowel Problems and Lower Back Pain
Gut bloating, or feeling bloated after eating , belching, passing gas, heartburn, intestinal pain, constipation and/or diarhea, nausea or vomiting are all symptoms of invisible inflammation.
This inflammation often starts in the microbiome or the gut. It can spread through the nerves, result in lymph stagnation and cause pain and inflammation in the back.
Additionally if people are in "fight or flight" mode for long peroids, digestion shuts down. In "fight or flight" Heart rate and Blood pressure goes up, strength increases, Heart rate increases to deal with the immediate threat. The body is prepared for fight or flight/run. Digestion and immunity shut down as not necessary for imminent survival, but are very important for long term survival. If we don't switch to the rest and relax or parasympathetic nervous system after the threat has passed it is a problem. Today millenials are exposed to a lot of environmental stress, work stress as more and more are working harder, multiple jobs, longer hours, all of which affect their health. Short term Fight or flight releases cortisol which is intially very protective. If in fight or flight too long, too much cortisol ,which damages the body over time affecting digestion,and immunity. Often have digestive issues but presenting symptom in clinic is low back pain
There are other reasons why constipation and lower back pain occur together.
Sometimes after a surgery a person becomes constipated.
The patient becomes constipated and the strain caused by the digestive block contributes to the development of tenseness and inflammation in the lower back. This back pain can feel more intense if the patient has a pinched nerve or other existing back condition that may be exacerbated by the constipation.
The patient sustains a back injury that causes muscle spasms. These muscle spasms inhibit the movement of food and waste through the digestive system, resulting in constipation.
The patient takes prescription medication to treat a pre-existing lower back condition. This medication, likely an opioid, causes constipation as a side effect. This correlation can also occur with some antidepressants, antacids, and blood pressure medications.
If you experience a combination of constipation and lower back pain, keep yourself hydrated, exercise even if it is moderate walking to encourage regularity. Then, schedule an appointment to determine how best to address your back pain.
Diet and Nerve Sensitivity
Many back conditions have less to do with the vertebrae themselves and more to do with the nerve connections around the vertebrae. Many common foods can contribute to nerve inflammation, making back pain more likely and more intense when it occurs.
You may experience less nerve pain when you limit the following:
While proper nutrition cannot eliminate all pain, especially among patients with chronic pain and inflammation, a healthy diet can help your body reduce inflammation and normalize pain responses. Cutting out sugar is really important in reducing inflammation.
Proper hydration 1-2 glasses of water per hour is very necessary for healing
Digestive Organs and Shoulder Misalignment
If you experience frequent pain between your shoulder blades, especially if your pain keeps coming back in spite of treatment, the underlying cause may actually be a problem with a digestive organ.
The nerves in your mid-back, where the shoulders are located, connect to a number of sensitive organs. When one of these organs develops an issue, your brain may read the pain signals as coming from your back instead.
Shoulder pain may be linked to the following organs:
If back treatment alone does not improve your mid-back pain, talk to a digestive health expert or a Holistic Physical Therapist.
Indigestion and Lower Back Pain
Just as the nerves in your mid-back are closely connected to the organs listed above, the nerves in your lower back are linked to your kidneys, small intestine, and colon. When food reaches these organs only partially digested, it can cause strain and discomfort, which can in turn contribute to pain in the lower back.
Indigestion is a complex condition that can occur for a number of reasons, including:
Congestive heart failure
Poor eating habits
If you experience indigestion and back pain simultaneously, seek medical help to diagnose the cause of the indigestion first. Resolving the indigestion may also alleviate your lower back pain.
If you notice a correlation between your diet or regularity and your spinal health, bring up the possibility of a connection the next time you visit your pain management provider, primary care physician, or other health care provider.
Remember, not all back pain is directly related to digestive health problems or vice versa, but identifying an existing connection can lead to more effective pain management and injury prevention.
At Physical Therapy Studio, we help patients address many kinds of symptoms, including gut inflammation and chronic back pain. If you suffer from both digestive health problems and back pain, we can help determine whether or not your issues with these two systems are linked. We can start you on a course of Physical Therapy to address the root cause and resolve the back pain.