Can Constipation Cause Back Pain?  

Fecal Impaction And Back Pain: What’s The Relationship? 

Constipation. It’s a taboo subject that nobody really wants to talk about. But we need to – especially if you are suffering from back pain. 

When people suffer from constipation and back pain simultaneously, it’s not a coincidence. It may sound silly, but constipation remains a leading cause of lower back pain for North Americans. 

Being ‘clogged up’ can have a domino effect upon the rest of your body. When your digestional tract swells, it puts enormous pressure on your back, and also on the surrounding nerves. 

But first, let’s check your symptoms. 

Constipation is defined as: ‘infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing bowel movements’. 

For clarification’s sake, medical professionals consider normal movements to occur one to two times per 24 hours. When suffering from constipation, you may only experience three movements a week. 

Everything builds up within the intestines. You are literally ‘full of it’. 

Further symptoms include:

  • Pain and straining when attempting to use the toilet 
  • Hard/lumpy stool 
  • A feeling of ‘fullness’ or pressure on your abdomen 
  • Extreme discomfort when passing stool 

Do any of these attributes sound familiar? Chances are that you are constipated. And it could be accounting for your back pain. 

So, How Does Constipation Cause Back Pain?

So, How Does Constipation Cause Back Pain?

I won’t sugarcoat this with niceties. Constipation swells the intestines with retained fecal matter, and this can lead to serious discomfort across the abdomen and back area. 

This kind of pain is most commonly reported as a dull ache in the lower back, where the backup of stool radiates pressure upon surrounding parts of the body. 

If things get really bad, pressure upon the nerves can lead to pain and numbness in your legs. It’s like sciatica, but with extra suffering and a disturbed appetite. 

What Causes Constipation & Back Pain?

What Causes Constipation & Back Pain?

There’s a host of circumstances that cause constipation, and the associated back pain that accompanies it. Some of these factors combine together to create the condition:

  • Dehydration
  • Low-fiber diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Certain medications
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Colon or rectal cancer

Once constipation has developed, the fecal impaction can press on the spinal cord; in the same way an infection or a tumor would. 

We don’t say that to scare you, however. Chances are, you don’t have a tumor lurking in the background. It’s much less frightening than that. As we will now explain. 

How Constipation Causes Back Pain 

How Constipation Causes Back Pain 

The digestive tract occupies a significant segment of your lower torso, and it’s easy for the signs and symptoms of back pain to appear when experiencing issues with a blocked rectum, or solidified stool in your colon. 

It’s generally considered that two main constipation-related causes affect your back. 

Firstly, you might have ‘fecal impaction’. This is a severe condition that nobody would wish upon their worst enemy, where pressure builds around the organs within the immediate vicinity of the blockage. 

Without the appropriate medical treatment, fecal impaction will cause severe damage to the body. Put frankly, this condition should be treated as soon as possible. 

Besides the agony of lower back pain, other symptoms to watch for (that can indicate the warning signs of fecal impaction include): 

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Bloating
  • Incontinence 

These symptoms can either formulate gradually or all at once, with the pain increasing until the blockage is treated. 

Fecal Impaction And Back Pain: What’s The Relationship? 

Can Constipation Cause Back Pain?  

Fecal impaction arises courtesy of frequent and untreated constipation. As being constipated conditions your colon to be restrictive and builds pressure on itself to tighten and narrow, this causes a build-up of fecal matter. 

As time moves forward, this compressed mass becomes significant enough to cause fecal impaction. 

Other – although less likely – causes of fecal impaction include a lack of overall activity and exercise, medication, surgery, and the overuse of laxatives. 

Can it be treated? Yes. Don’t panic. Although we will warn you, it’s not exactly the most pleasant of treatments. 

The typical treatment for this condition involves an enema, paired with water irrigation, laxatives, and/or anal suppositories. 

DO NOT try to sort this out at home. And don’t ignore the symptoms; especially if the back pain continues to spread towards your legs. 

However, that’s one of the worst-case scenarios. Most people ‘only’ suffer from general constipation. 

General Constipation And Back Pain: What’s Going On?

General Constipation And Back Pain: What’s Going On? how can exercise help

The most likely situation is what’s referred to as ‘general constipation’, where the blockage in your digestive tract presses against the nerves and muscles of your back. 

This causes a range of feedback to be intercepted by the brain, which only worsens as the backed-up stool grows larger.  

Just as with fecal impaction, symptoms of general constipation include infrequent bowel movements, pain when passing stool, and hard/lumpy output. 

Abdominal cramps, bloating, swelling, and a feeling of ‘fullness’ (despite not eating anything) are also common factors. 

The cause of general constipation is most commonly linked to poor diet, but stress, sudden injury, reaction to medication, and a lack of activity/exercise also play a part. 

Don’t try to self diagnose, however. The real cause of your condition needs to be determined by a medical professional, and it remains highly important that you consult with your doctor or a physician should constipation and back pain continue to dictate your quality of life.

The treatment for constipation is not quite as severe as fecal impaction. Rather than intrusive techniques, this solution revolves around diet improvements and ‘bowel movement management’.  

Sometimes, medication may be administered, but it’s really the last report. Lifestyle changes are absolutely the best way forward here. 

Engaging in more physical sports, stretching, exercising, and being active are great ways to treat the problem. 

Treatment Options For Back Pain Caused By Constipation 

Treatment Options For Back Pain Caused By Constipation 

The first line of treatment? You got it. Change that diet! They say: “You are what you eat” – so if you’re suffering, get something done about it. 

You don’t need to jump straight in with the Wholefoods VIP extra-healthy extra-expensive range, either. Take it in steps, and start by adding more fiber and water to your diet. 

Doing so helps to soften your stool and allow ease of passing. 

However – don’t suddenly overdo it. And if constipation has occurred because of starting a new diet or beginning a new round of medication, contact your doctor. They should be able to help adjust medication and diet. 

Then there’s exercise. We’ve mentioned it throughout the article, but it’s a seriously effective method for regaining normality. Exercise promotes proper circulation, and keeps your bowels healthy.

Ensure that you are drinking enough fluid. Stay hydrated, and remember that coffee is not water! Besides adding fiber to your diet, get those fruits and vegetables eaten. They will do you the world of good. 

Sometimes, with a change of diet and increased water consumption, constipation will resolve itself; taking your lower back pain with it. If the constipation clears and you still have back pain, talk to your doctor or physical therapist. There’s something else causing your lower back pain.

It’s also a wise idea to start a schedule for regular bowel movements. That will sound a bit over-the-top, but it will prove effective! 

To do this, you can use stool softeners, laxatives, and suppositories; all of which can be purchased over the counter. 

Can A Physical Therapist Help With Back Pain?

Can A Physical Therapist Help With Back Pain?

There are various drugs and invasive treatments available to treat back pain. But those pills are only masking the pain, they do not solve the problem. Back pain is likely to come back with a vengeance as soon as you stop taking painkillers.

And invasive treatments often have ramifications. 

We always recommend physical therapy first for middle back pain, and all other types of chronic pain.

Why so?

Easy. We can usually find and treat the root cause quickly, and prevent the need for pain pills, injections, and surgery.

Our experienced physical therapists will be able to guide you through various exercises and also suggest dietary changes. They will also be able to help you adjust to a more active lifestyle. 

The best part? We don’t generalize your condition. What works for some people may not work for everyone. That’s why we take the time to get to know you, and understand your exact situation. 

After all, we are all unique, and therefore treatment needs to be bespoke to each person. 

Our physical therapists provide pre-operative, post-operative, and non-operative therapy for injuries that are a result of work, trauma, poor life balance, a poor diet, or overuse of muscles. 

Our focus is to provide relief through an extensive physical therapy evaluation, manual therapy techniques, therapeutic exercise, patient education and an individual focus on patient care to successfully return our patients to full function and enhance their quality of life. 

At Intecore Physical Therapy We Focus On The Individual Patient, Not Just The Pain. 

At Intecore Physical Therapy we focus on the individual patient, not just the pain. 
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Intecore Physical Therapy was formed on two basic principles: Integrity of Care and Core Rehabilitation Values. Thus, Intecore! And we stand by our core values. You will be welcomed as part of the Intecore physical therapy family. 

Get in touch with us through our contact page, or you can enquire about cost and availability.

We look forward to helping you move forward! 

Andrew Vertson