Can Constipation Cause Lower Back Pain?
Many people have experienced the discomfort of constipation in their lifetime, which can feel like not being able to relieve the bowels as easily as normal. Not many people realise there is such a strong connection between constipation and low back pain, but it’s more common than people might realise.
It can be helpful for patients to learn about how constipation can lead to lower back pain and the ways physical therapists can help treat it.
Keep reading to learn more about constipation and its link with low back pain, including what it is, the ways to manage the pain, and when to see a doctor. Orleans Physiotherapy is here to support patients with back pain and discomfort in Orleans.
What Is Constipation?
Constipation is a common digestive problem. Patients with it usually experience fewer or inconsistent bowel movements, difficulty pooping or passing dry poop. While everyone has different bowel movements, most times constipation is defined as less than three bowel movements per week.
The symptoms of constipation can range from mild to severe, and for some patients it's just temporary where for others it may become chronic. As constipation can vary so much, it's helpful to understand how it happens and what effect it can have on different areas of the body, such as the lower back.
How Constipation Can Affect The Back
The main symptom of constipation is clogging up of the system and making it harder to relieve the bowels fully and completely. This is because for patients with constipation, the natural processes in the gut are disrupted.
Normally, the gut muscles simply contract and relax in a rhythmic way to push food – and eventually waste – through the gut. However, with constipation, this coordinated muscle movement slows down or becomes sparse. As a result, stool can become harder and dryer, making it even more difficult to pass.
This disruption of normal digestion not only makes it uncomfortable in the abdominal region, but can also have flow-on effects into other parts of the body, including the lower back.
Can You Get Lower Back Pain From Constipation?
Yes, it’s possible to get lower back pain from constipation. The connection between constipation and lower back pain may not be obvious, but there is a link that can occur between the two because of human anatomy.
The Link To Lower Back Pain
The large intestines, known as the colon, are responsible for getting rid of any waste. This part of the gut winds its way through the abdomen into the pelvis towards the rectum. When the bowels slow down and become constipated, it can increase pressure in the gut.
This uncomfortable pressure can start to press onto nearby parts of the body, such as the lower back. As the lower back is so complex with nerves, muscles, and joints, this area can easily become irritated. The pressure in the gut can lead to tension, discomfort, and ultimately lower back pain. Additionally, holding in wind or straining when going to the toilet can put more pressure on the lower back, adding to the cycle of pain.
Several mechanisms may play a role in the connection between constipation and lower back pain:
One of the ways constipation can cause pain is through nerve irritation. The pressure in the gut may put pressure on the nerves that travel nearby.
Nerves are sensitive, so any changes can lead to pain and discomfort. Sometimes this is called referred pain, as the pain is experienced in a different part of the body than where it comes from.
With constipation comes muscle tension, particularly in the lower back muscles. This can cause irritability or fatigue in the muscles, which adds to lower back pain.
Additionally, straining to relieve the bowels can make things worse for the muscles.
Changes in Posture
Chronic constipation can lead to postural changes over time as patients reposition themselves throughout the day to find ways to get more comfortable.
This may include bending or slouching forward, sitting for longer periods to avoid standing, or shifting to one side. These changes to posture can add stress to the lower back.
Symptoms And Signs Of Lower Back Pain
Early intervention and effective management is the best strategy for treating lower back pain from constipation.
Some signs and symptoms the pain may be connected to constipation include:
- Patterns: Some patients start to notice that their back pain is linked with difficulty pooping, suggesting a connection between them.
- Changes With Bowel Movements: Patients may also find that their symptoms ease after going to the toilet, suggesting a link between these conditions.
- Abdominal Discomfort: Lower back pain plus abdominal discomfort is one of the main signs that the constipation may be causing the lower back pain.
- Chronic Constipation: For those with a history of chronic constipation, there is an increased likelihood of getting lower back pain too.
- Hip Pain: Constipation pain can also be associated with other areas of pain, such as hip pain.
Diagnosing the specific cause of the consultation and back pain is really important for getting proper treatment. Additionally, it’s important to rule out other causes of lower back pain. A common starting point is getting in touch with a healthcare clinician, such as a doctor or physical therapist.
For more information, reach out to our physiotherapy team in Orleans.
Physical Therapy For Lower Back Pain
When constipation leads to lower back pain, patients may find that physical therapy is beneficial. Here’s how physical therapy can help lower back pain:
The physical therapist will first conduct a thorough assessment to understand the problem and potential factors that can contribute to it. This may include movement tests, a review of any relevant medical history, a physical assessment, and special diagnostic tests. They may also refer to other healthcare professionals, such as a dietician.
Based on the assessment, the physical therapist will develop a tailored treatment plan. This plan can involve specific treatments, such as exercises and massage, that may be used for each session to help the symptoms and address the underlying cause.
Some of the prescribed exercises may include stretches or resistance movement to strengthen or mobilise the muscles that support the lower back. The physical therapist may also incorporate movements as well as exercises that promote gut motility.
Home Exercise Program
In order to accelerate recovery from lower back pain, physical therapists also prescribe home exercises. The physical therapist will explain each exercise, the benefit of it, and how to complete it in the home environment. This can help continue progress throughout the week.
The Benefits Of Physical Therapy For Lower Back Pain
There are lots of benefits to physical therapists for patients with lower back pain including:
- Alleviating pain: Every patient is different, so physical therapists use different exercises for each person to help them get relief from their symptoms. The goal is to address the root cause of the problems they are having and not just prescribe any old exercise.
- Better Movement: Physical therapy involves exercises that promote strength and range in the joints and muscles of the lower back and nearby areas in the body. This may also help improve gut motility.
- Core Stability: Exercise is also a helpful way to build core strength and stability, a central component in reducing the risk of getting back injuries.
Additionally, physical therapy is a conservative treatment, meaning it doesn’t require surgery, so it can be great for a range of different patients who are having lower back pain symptoms.
When To See A Doctor
As there are different types of constipation, any symptoms should be assessed by a medical professional, especially chronic constipation which lasts more than a couple weeks. This is so doctors can find a solution and prevent any complications that may occur.
Some of the causes of lower back pain other than constipation can include a muscle strain, herniated disc, arthritis, certain injuries, or even cancer.
As a result, symptoms should not be ignored as they may indicate something more serious is going on. It’s time to see a doctor for any concerning signs and symptoms.
This includes iIf the symptoms are intense, come out of nowhere, or seem to be getting worse despite trying home treatment, it’s vital to see a doctor straight away. Blood in the stool is also a red flag as it could indicate a serious issue that needs treatment, such as hemorrhoids, kidney issues, or even colorectal cancer.
Patients that experience any strange, significant, or sudden weight loss should see a doctor. Additionally, if there is a past family history of cancer or any genetic diseases, it’s a good idea to get an early consultation with a doctor.
Back Pain Therapy In Orleans
Many people experience lower back pain in their lifetime, but not many people realise the underlying cause might be from constipation. It’s important to get checked out and get the right treatment to find relief.
If you have lower back pain, call our Physiotherapy Orleans team to get help and guidance.