Back Pain Constipation
Constipation is a term used to describe having infrequent bowel movements and it affects many people every year. However, surpassed only by cold and flu symptoms as “motivators,” having a sore back is the second most common reason people visit their doctors. While the most obvious symptom of constipation is difficulty in having regular bowel movements, another prevalent symptom is back pain. Most of us will experience some sort of pain or discomfort in our backs at some point in our lives, and constipation could be the underlying cause.
Structure and Function of the Back
The back has many muscles attached to, intersecting, or covering the spine. The spine itself is made up of an elongated, curved stack of bones called vertebrae. These vertebrae are basically circular in form and between each of them is a special disc. These discs are composed of rubber-like tissue and provide flexibility of the spine. Without this flexibility, we wouldn’t be able to bend over, twist, sit, or walk. However, we wouldn’t want to be as flexible as a snake either. Along with the discs, we have strong ligaments spanning from vertebrae to vertebrae for added support. The spine also has the critical job of protecting the spinal cord, which sends messages back and forth between the body and the brain, so we can see the logic of having spinal “armor” shielding it.
It’s no wonder people end up with sore back muscles, “slipped discs,” and other lower back problems because we have so many different parts to twist, pull, tear, and strain! Back pain can be caused by lifting something too heavy, twisting too suddenly, or even sleeping in an awkward position. Back pain can even be related to something unusual like constipation. The lower back receives continuous impact from walking, running, and many other everyday motions. Constipation only worsens the situation as the lower back feels greater strain when natural movement is obstructed or hindered by an over-full or impacted colon.
Incredibly, even children can experience back pain constipation. You see, constipation is really just a symptom of the body not getting rid of waste often enough. If waste remains in the colon too long, the body can reabsorb the water and thus the stool becomes too dry. If a child is trying to pass a stool that is hard, dry, or very large, they have to strain to manipulate the intestinal muscles. As a result, he or she may experience lower back pain from all that extra effort. Children may experience additional pain in their anus from it getting stretched open for the large, dry stool to get pushed out.
When to See a Doctor
People with severe or chronic constipation can also develop a condition known as fecal impaction. Impaction occurs when the rectum is blocked by a hardened bowel movement and it can lead to back pain, cramps, bloating, and even feelings of lethargy from the toxic waste remaining inside the body too long. Most people endure these types of problems without realizing a solution can be obtained; they find ways to work around any lower back pain they might be experiencing and just trudge along with the added difficulty. Nonetheless, pain is always a signal that something is wrong. Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner if you have any of the following symptoms:
- The pain is constant and doesn’t improve by resting your back or lying down.
- The pain developed suddenly and you are under 20 years old or over 55 years old.
- The pain travels up the back and into the chest area.
- The pain came on slowly and gradually became worse (most back pain results from sudden injury or stress).
- Recurrent nausea or loss of appetite affects your normal diet patterns.
- You experience weakness or numbness in your legs, feet, or buttocks.
- You are also experiencing problems with your bladder or bowel function.
Of course, if you’re experiencing back pain constipation, once you begin having regular bowel movements again the pain should subside. But what if you’ve had back pain recently, and it feels better now, yet you are still constipated? Surprisingly, back pain constipation can also be related to taking medications such as painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs.
Medications and Constipation
Stronger painkillers (like Codeine and Hydrocodone) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have a tendency to constipate. The following are medications you may not recognize as potential causes of constipation:
- Antacids containing aluminum hydroxide
- Anti-diarrhea products
- Anti-spasmodic drugs
- Diuretics and laxatives
- Medications for Parkinson’s disease
- Iron supplements
- Calcium channel blockers (high blood pressure treatments)
- Decongestants and anti-histamines
- Pain relief drugs
Helpful Hints for Reducing Back Pain Constipation
Some people are surprised to learn their constipation could be causing lower back pain, but the truth is—constipation can cause all sorts of aches, pains, and general malaise. Abdominal pain and nausea are common symptoms, as well as a loss of appetite. If fecal impaction is associated with your back pain constipation, it can cause rectal cramps. Fecal impaction occurs often in the elderly; and because liquid stool tends to ooze out around blockages, it can often be mistaken for diarrhea. If you are suffering from the discomfort of back pain constipation, try some of the following resolutions:
- Dehydration can be a major cause of back pain constipation. Drink lots of water, or hot teas and broths.
- Begin exercising more. Easy, relaxed swimming or walking are excellent choices. Exercising is especially important for women over 50, as well as all senior citizens.
- Cut back on eating refined foods and return to the healthful basics such as eating fresh fruits, whole wheat breads and pastas, and green, leafy vegetables. It’s especially wise to avoid all foods that cause constipation.
- Raise your feet with a footstool when you are sitting on the toilet. Foot elevation places the bowel at a better angle for passing stool easily.
- Try using a natural oxygen-based colon cleanser such as Oxy-Powder®.
- Thoroughly examine your sleeping conditions. Invest in not just an “okay” bed but the best one you can afford. Getting a great night’s rest is critical to keeping the body in proper working order.
Back pain constipation is a detriment to health we may all have to face someday. If you find it’s happening more often, it’s probably a good time to change your routine. Focus on core exercises that strengthen both the stomach and back muscles, such as good old-fashioned sit-ups, rowing with resistance, back extensions, leg lifts, or the aforementioned aquatic activities. Be aware of potential side effects from any medication you are taking. Make sure you’re sleeping well on a comfortable mattress. Some people prefer firmer mattresses and some prefer softer, but everyone should feel refreshed in the morning. Perhaps the most important change is to begin eating a healthful, well-balanced diet with plenty of organic fruit, whole grains (for fiber), and raw vegetables. Back pain constipation can be a debilitating, painful condition but can be alleviated with a little common sense and preventative measures. Be good to your back—it’s really the foundation of a body’s strength and must be maintained for excellent overall health.