Can Chronic Constipation Cause Back Pain?
Chronic constipation can be a real pain in the…well. In addition to abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and hemorrhoids, some experts suggest there may be a relationship between chronic constipation and back pain. Here’s a look at how and why constipation may cause back pain.
What is Chronic Constipation?
Chronic constipation is characterized as abnormally few stools, or a persistent inability to pass stool normally. You are considered constipated if you pass less than three bowel movements a week. After three months it is considered chronic. Common causes of constipation are insufficient amounts of fiber in your diet, pregnancy, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or neurological dysfunction leading to nervous system issues.
How Does Chronic Constipation Cause Back Pain?
Constipation affects your body in many ways. Although it is uncomfortable, it is generally not dangerous. However, some potential complications can be extremely problematic. For example, hemorrhoids, anal fissures (torn skin), rectal prolapse (the rectum stretches to the point that it begins to protrude from the anus), and fecal impaction. Fecal impaction refers to stool stuck hard and dehydrated.
Experts believe this is one of the more common relationships between constipation and back pain. Stool builds up behind the point of impaction. This causes pain and pressure in the lower back. It gets worse as your body continues to produce but not expel waste.
What’s more, for not only fecal impaction—you increase straining. The muscles used to put extra effort into your bathroom habits start with those in the spinal column and the abdominal core. The extra push and pull can wear and tear on lower back muscles, causing back pain simply as a result of use.
Other Constipation/Back Pain Relations
Back pain is one of the most common issues in the U.S. Many doctors prescribe painkillers to help manage back pain. Pain medication, particularly opioids, have a serious tendency to cause constipation. If you already experience back pain and use pharmaceuticals to help manage it, and find yourself constipated, it could actually be making your back pain worse.
Not everyone with chronic constipation will have back pain, and chronic constipation will not cause back pain in every scenario. (Fecal impaction is more likely to cause back pain than chronic constipation alone.) There are many things you can do to manage chronic constipation, although fecal impaction can be a medical emergency. Drink plenty of water and make sure to eat enough of the right kinds of fiber. Also, exercise regularly—even if it is just a thirty minute walk around the block. As this relieves your constipation, it should help with back pain as well.