Have you ever experienced intense abdominal discomfort or pain in your chest or back when constipated? Irregular bowel movements or difficulty passing stool can cause a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms beyond just feeling “backed up”. While upper back pain may specifically be rare, it's important to understand the connection between your digestion and other areas of the body.
When your bowel movements are disrupted, it puts stress on your digestive organs and surrounding muscles. This can manifest in bloating, cramps, pressure, or referred pain in unexpected regions like your upper back.
This comprehensive guide will explore the link between constipation and associated gastrointestinal symptoms. It outlines potential causes, key red flags, how doctors diagnose these issues, and most importantly, what treatments can provide relief.
To understand why upper back pain and constipation go hand-in-hand, you first need to look at the underlying causes.
Some people think that when stool gets packed together in the colon, it puts pressure on nerves going up the spine. This may cause pain signals to go to the upper back. However, there is not much proof that this causes ongoing upper back pain. Lower back pain is more common with constipation.
Additionally, the act of trying to pass dense, compacted stool during constipation can require a great deal of abdominal straining. You may find yourself pushing intensely with your abdominal muscles to get the feces out. This excessive effort taxes the muscles in your upper back as they contract and spasm.
Repeated forceful muscle strain during bowel movements can cause inflammation or injury, resulting in debilitating upper back aches. The upper trapezius muscles between the neck and shoulders are particularly susceptible. Exerting continued pressure on your spine as you bear down can also compress nerves that run to the upper back.
Your sitting posture while trying to pass difficult stools can exacerbate upper back pain too. Hunching over with rounded shoulders compresses the chest, overworks neck and back muscles, and stresses the spine. This position pins nerves, further contributing to painful spasms and knots between the shoulder blades.
Sitting on the toilet for prolonged periods when constipated also keeps your back motionless in this strained, poor posture. This restricts blood flow and oxygen to the upper back muscles, heightening discomfort in the area.
It’s important to note that poor posture alone does not usually cause chronic upper back pain in people with constipation.
These are more or less the common accompanying symptoms of constipation that can be directly or indirectly related to upper back pain:
If you regularly experience these simultaneous symptoms, upper back pain and constipation are likely connected. Other red flags include rectal pain and bleeding from hemorrhoids as you strain. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if the issue persists.
If painful constipation and upper back aches are impacting your daily life, your physician can run tests to get to the root cause. Here are some ways doctors diagnose this condition:
Describe your symptoms in detail to your family doctor. Inform them of when the upper back pain began in relation to your constipation issues. Share any family history of digestive diseases.
Doctors will manually apply pressure to your abdomen to check for obstructions, tenderness, or bloating. A digital rectal exam allows them to feel for impacted stool.
X-rays or CT scans can confirm fecal impaction and identify any spine abnormalities contributing to back pain.
These help rule out diseases and conditions that may be tied to your constipation.
Doctors may also consider other tests based on the patient's specific situation.
If over-the-counter remedies aren’t solving your upper back and abdominal issues, your doctor can prescribe stronger interventions:
Oral laxatives like polyethylene glycol increase stool frequency and soften feces to allow easier passage. This reduces straining and pressure on the upper back.
Docusate sodium makes stools easier to pass by increasing moisture content. Again, less straining equals less upper back pain.
These medications, like prucalopride, stimulate muscle contractions to move stool through your colon more rapidly. This clears any obstructions.
Your doctor may manually clear heavily impacted feces by injecting water or lubricating agents into your rectum to quickly flush out the colon.
This involves learning pelvic floor exercises to retrain muscles and regain normal bowel function. Reduces strained bowel movements.
Those with recurring impaction or bowel obstructions may require surgery to remove blockages or widen narrowed areas of the colon.
Relieving constant upper back pain with constipation often requires treating the root cause, whether it’s impaction, straining, or poor posture.
Medical interventions aside, there are many natural ways to find relief from simultaneous upper back aches and constipation. Try:
Over-the-counter laxatives like milk of magnesia help gently soften and ease the passage of stool. Reduce straining.
Drink plenty of water and fluids like prune juice to soften stool and support regular bowel movements so you don’t have to push as hard.
Physical activity naturally stimulates the body’s digestive processes through muscular contractions in the colon. Prevents constipation.
Heating pads or warm baths relax tense, strained back muscles and increase blood flow to the area.
Non-prescription anti-inflammatories like Advil or Tylenol can alleviate back pain from constipation-related muscle spasms.
Eat plenty of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils and whole grains. Fiber gives stool bulk and moisture for easier passing.
Consuming foods like yogurt with live active cultures promote healthy gut bacteria to support regularity.
Use a footstool to elevate your knees above your hips while sitting. This straightens the colon for easier passing.
Certain yoga poses massage abdominal organs and relax the colon, relieving constipation and reducing strain.
Tight pants put pressure on the abdomen. Opt for loose, comfortable clothing to take tension off the body.
PTs offer manual therapy to relax tight back muscles, improve posture, and increase flexibility.
OTC remedies, dietary changes, gentle exercise, heating pads, and posture fixes can bring immense relief from simultaneous upper back aches and the inability to pass stool. Rely on home treatments alongside any doctor-prescribed solutions.
While occasional constipation and upper back pain often resolve on their own, recurring or worsening symptoms may indicate an underlying condition needing specialist care. See a doctor promptly if you experience:
Also, seek medical guidance if OTC laxatives or prescription medications fail to provide relief after several weeks. Prolonged symptoms can disrupt your quality of life.
Your family physician may refer you to a specialist for further treatment:
|Specialist||How They Can Help|
|Gastroenterologist||Treats disorders of the digestive system, including chronic constipation|
|Colorectal Surgeon||Performs surgical procedures involving the colon, rectum, and anus|
|Neurologist||Addresses issues with nerves that may cause referred upper back pain|
|Physical Therapist||Improves mobility and flexibility, and strengthens core/back muscles|
|Chiropractor||Provides spinal manipulation and posture adjustment to relieve back pain|
|Pain Management Specialist||Administers customized pain relief regimens|
These practitioners have extensive training in resolving chronic constipation and upper back pain refractory to basic treatment. Take advantage of their expertise.
Seeking their counsel is especially prudent if you have any of the following high-risk conditions:
These disorders frequently undermine healthy bowel movements and generate upper back pain. Specialists can pinpoint tailored therapies to overcome the obstacles they present.
For stubborn instances of simultaneous upper back aches and the inability to pass stool, your referred specialist may order advanced diagnostic testing:
These sophisticated tests provide vital insights for personalized treatment plans tailored to your unique presentation. They pinpoint causes that more basic evaluations fail to uncover.
For those with chronic upper back pain alongside severe constipation, more intensive procedures beyond laxatives may be warranted. Discuss the following options with your gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeon:
Don’t continue tolerating agonizing upper back pain alongside constipation. Seek advanced solutions to get your life back on track.
For those whose upper back pain and constipation persist despite various treatment approaches, a pain management center offers comprehensive relief.
Benefits of seeking their expertise include:
With an individualized treatment blueprint tailored to address your upper back pain and bowel movement difficulties, you can finally experience consistent relief and improved mobility. Consult facilities like Gramercy Pain Center to explore your options.
The key is not giving up. There are solutions available to help you move and live comfortably without upper back pain related to constipation. Seek help from specialists equipped with advanced diagnostic tools and proven protocols. Consistent relief is within your reach – start your pain management journey today.