Irritable Bowel Syndrome Back Pain - Is It Real?

Written by: Meenakshi Joshi – M Sc
(Psychology)

Last updated date : April 05, 2022

Do you have trouble when you visit the loo? Have you seen changes in the form – colour, smell, etc. of your stools? Do you go to the washroom more than before? Do you have pain in your abdomen and back? Can irritable bowel syndrome cause back pain?

Chapter 1:
What Is Pain?

Pain is a signal. When you feel pain, it means that something is wrong. In other words, pain tells you that you need to attend to yourself. Pain can be different kinds of sensations that people feel. Pain can be felt like a burn or a sting. You may feel pain in the form of tingling or a pricking-like sensation.

Sometimes you might have a dull pain. For example, you might have a slight headache throughout the day. It might not stop you from doing your day-to-day work. It is like a small nagging in the back of your head. You can bear it and can work with the pain.

At times, you may have severe pain. This type of pain to just unbearable. You just cannot work or even sit steadily for a minute. The pain takes over our life. So, all your energy gets focused on pain. For example, you might get cramps in your stomach that are sharp and sudden. You cannot even stand when you get this type of pain.

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Chapter 2:
What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Back Pain?

In Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you have pain in your stomach. Sometimes, this pain can extend to your back as well. Irritable bowel syndrome can cause back pain. This pain could be because
  • the way you sit, stand, or walk. When you have stomach pain, you tend to adjust your body position to reduce the pain. In doing so, you may actually sit, stand, walk, or even sleep in weird positions.
  • the other symptoms of IBS can cause back pain. You have diarrhea, gas, bloating, and constipation which can cause this pain
  • anxiety can cause pain. When you have IBS, you feel anxious and worry about having this condition. Back pain can be a sign of anxiety. As your mind and body are related to each other, your mental state gets expressed via your body.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome can cause back pain indirectly. It causes disorders such as arthritis. These related disorders may cause back pain.
  • Also, people who have IBS have other health issues. These health issues may cause back pain.
  • Lastly, back pain in irritable bowel syndrome can be caused by our own minds. It means that this pain could be without a real cause. We might feel and express pain which can be very real to us but clinically there might not be any actual cause for the pain.
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Chapter 3:
Is Pain Different for Different People?

Pain is something that is so personal that only the person who has pain can know about it. There is no way to see or touch the pain. The one who feels the pain is the only one who can explain how he/she is feeling. 

Also, the tolerance level of each person is different. For example, two people who have IBS can have back pain. However, how much and what type of back pain the irritable bowel syndrome is causing depends totally on the person. For Person A, the same pain can feel like a slight stinging sensation which he can live with. While for Person B, this pain can feel like a heavyweight has been put on his back and he cannot move or work. 

Hence, when it comes to pain, it is very difficult to quantify pain and come to a common understanding about it.

What is real/unreal pain?
Sometimes, a physical part of our body causes pain. For example, you are riding a bike, you fall and hurt your knees and arms. The pain you feel after falling is real pain where you know what causes this pain. However, there are times when you cannot identify the physical source or cause of pain.
  • Pain could be an expression of the mental distress you are feeling. In irritable bowel syndrome, you could feel back pain because of the anxiety or fear you have. The worry and fear that IBS causes can get expressed through back pain.
  • Love can make your heartache! The emotional stress or changes that a person goes through when he/she has a breakup can cause make the person feel like he/she is actually feeling pain in their heart.
  • Trauma or any event that causes a deep sense of loss can also get converted into a feeling of pain.
  • At times, the fear of a disorder itself can cause pain. For example, In irritable bowel syndrome, you may fear having pain, and that in itself can cause back pain.
Can Irritable bowel syndrome cause real back pain?
When it comes to IBS, the pain you feel may or may not have an observable cause. You might have heard people say, “you carry all your tension in your back”. What this phrase means is that any mental stress you have gets shown by pain in the back. Pain in IBS can be psychological as well. So, Irritable bowel syndrome can cause back pain which can be
  • real with a physical cause
  • psychological due to stress, anxiety, fear, or worry
  • a combination of both, it can be partly physical and partly mental
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Chapter 4:
How to Deal With Back Pain in Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

There are two goals of treatment –
  1. reducing the symptoms, i.e., back pain
  2. increasing quality of life
Also, different treatments might work for different people. These are some of the ways you can deal with back pain in IBS.
  • Exercise – Any form of mild to moderate exercise can help to reduce back pain. Yoga is one of the best forms of exercise that is effective. Additionally, swimming, biking, walking, easy and simple weight training are also good for back pain. For example, doing a gentle form of exercises like a slow-paced walk or slow bike ride can relax your back.
  • Medication to reduce IBS – When you treat the basic cause of the pain, you will feel relieved. So, medicines that reduce IBS will also help to reduce back pain.
  • Changing body postures – As discussed above back pain can be caused by weird body positions and postures. So, if you change those, your pain will go away.
  • Relaxation and meditation – Anything that helps with calming your mind and body can help with relieving pain. Prayanama or breathing exercise can help to deal with the physical stress we experience and it can also calm our mind.
  • Therapy – When you have pain due to stress or anxiety, you need to get help from a therapist. In therapy, you will be able to know why you have the pain and how you can deal with it. Getting help from a therapist will make you positively handle anxiety. Also, family and friends can help to reduce your mental pressure if needed.
Last Word

The back pain you have can be caused by irritable bowel syndrome. This pain can have a physical cause or it can be due to your anxiety or worry. You can make your pain worse if you keep ignoring it. Consult a doctor to find out that your back pain is due to IBS only and no other disorder or condition is causing it. Deal with the back pain immediately and do not let the pain overtake your life. 

If you are suffering from Irritable Bowel syndrome and need more information about it, you can visit our courses pages and look up the course related to this topic. It will you understand your condition and help you deal with it effectively.