3 Types of Management Options to Ease IBS Back Pain
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause a variety of symptoms. Most of them affect the digestive system, although they can also occur throughout the body. One example is back pain, which is a common issue for people with IBS.
In this article we will discuss everything you need to know about IBS back pain, including its causes, symptoms, and how to manage it effectively.
What is IBS Back Pain?
The most common IBS symptoms are digestive complaints, such as constipation, diarrhea, and bloating. However, some people with IBS also experience symptoms outside the digestive tract.
Examples include fatigue, sleep disturbances, muscle pain, headaches, and sexual or urinary dysfunction. Another frequently reported symptom among people with IBS is back pain, especially in the lower back. In fact, some estimates suggest as many as 81% of IBS patients suffer from back pain.
In many of these cases, there are no physiological signs of damage to the spine. The pain tends to remain stable and does not get progressively worse over time. However, its severity may fluctuate alongside other IBS symptoms.
How IBS Can Cause Back Pain
Most experts agree that IBS back pain is most likely to be a form of referred pain. Referred pain occurs when dysfunction in one area of the body causes discomfort elsewhere.
In the case of IBS, symptoms like constipation, excess gas, and bloating could potentially cause pain in the lower back. However, scientists are still working to find out the precise mechanism behind IBS back pain.
Another theory is that referred pain may be due to dysfunction of a large muscle called the diaphragm. This dome-shaped structure spans the interior torso and plays a crucial role in breathing. Some researchers believe that people with IBS may have abnormal electrical activity within this muscle.
Finally, there is significant overlap between IBS and fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia causes numerous symptoms, the most common of which is widespread pain. Therefore, anyone suffering from IBS and pain in multiple parts of the body could ask their physician whether fibromyalgia might be the cause.
IBS Back Pain Risk Factors
IBS back pain tends to worsen when other IBS symptoms flare up. Therefore, people whose IBS is poorly managed are at greater risk of experiencing back pain. Possible triggers include certain foods and drinks, or emotional stress. We have listed some tips for managing IBS back pain below.
In some cases, a person may have back pain that is unrelated to their IBS. For example, injuries like a strained muscle or a slipped disc can cause back pain. Factors that increase the risk of these issues include poor posture, improper lifting techniques, and certain sports.
Furthermore, older people have a higher risk of back pain due to conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis.
IBS Back Pain Symptoms
There are many different types of back pain. It can range from a dull ache to a severe shooting or stabbing sensation.
The distinguishing feature of back pain due to IBS is that it can improve or worsen alongside other IBS symptoms. Conversely, back pain due to injuries tends to occur suddenly and get better over time. Meanwhile, diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis cause back pain that gets progressively worse.
In some cases, back pain can be a sign of a serious underlying condition. Therefore, it is essential to consult a physician when back pain is:
- Severe and not relieved by rest
- Spreading down the leg, especially below the knee
- Accompanied by weakness, numbness, or tingling
- Accompanied by unexpected weight loss
How to Manage IBS Back Pain
When it comes to coping with IBS back pain, the primary aim is to get the IBS itself under control. There are several options that may be helpful, including diet and lifestyle changes, medication, and natural remedies.
1. Diet and Lifestyle
Adjusting one’s diet and eating habits are among the best ways of managing IBS. Some people with IBS are sensitive to specific foods, especially those containing a type of fermentable carbohydrate known as FODMAPs. Fatty and spicy foods are also common culprits. Keeping a diet and symptom diary for several weeks can help to identify foods to avoid.
Exercise is also beneficial as it encourages healthy movement in the digestive tract. Meanwhile, relaxation techniques and therapies can help to reduce stress and minimize the risk of flare ups.
Some helpful tips include:
- Eat little and often, avoiding heavy meals
- Do not delay or skip meals
- Chew food well and do not eat too fast
- Cook from scratch and avoid processed foods
- Avoid high FODMAP foods if necessary
- Avoid fatty and spicy foods
- Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption
- Avoid carbonated drinks
- Do not eat more than three portions of fruit daily
- Take part in some physical activity every day
- Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness
- Consider cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for severe stress or anxiety
There are many medications available that can help manage IBS symptoms. Common examples include antispasmodics like mebeverine or hyoscyamine, and antidiarrhea medicines like loperamide.
Some people also find fiber supplements like psyllium beneficial. It adds bulk to the stools and can help with both constipation and diarrhea.
It is also possible to take painkillers to deal with back pain directly. However, it is important to avoid opioid painkillers as they can cause constipation as a side effect. Therefore, they may end up making matters worse.
3. Natural Remedies
Peppermint oil capsules are a popular natural remedy for IBS. They have antispasmodic properties and can relieve abdominal cramping and pain. Some people also recommend peppermint tea.
Some people find probiotics helpful, although not everyone will benefit from these supplements. They improve the balance of bacteria in the gut to support digestive health. It is necessary to try probiotics for at least one month to find out whether they are effective.
Finally, holistic treatments like acupuncture and massage may help. They potentially promote relaxation and reduce stress while also soothing physical pain.