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Suffering From Upper Back Pain While Constipated? Here’s What You Need To Know

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.

Can Upper Back Pain Be Connected to Constipation?

To understand why upper back pain and constipation go hand-in-hand, you first need to look at the underlying causes. 

Fecal Impaction 

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.

Muscle Strain from Bowel Movements

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.

Sitting Posture on the Toilet 

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.

Symptoms of Constipation Related to Upper Back Pain

a woman having upper back pain

These are more or less the common accompanying symptoms of constipation that can be directly or indirectly related to upper back pain:

  • Difficulty Passing Stool - Constipation is defined as having fewer than 3 bowel movements per week. You’ll have infrequent, difficult passages of lumpy, dry, or hard stool.
  • Lower Back Pain - Constipation often causes lower back pain due to the swelling of the intestines with retained fecal matter. Leads to discomfort in both the abdomen and back.
  • Straining During Bowel Movements - You have to push intensely and bear down forcefully to get compacted stools to pass from the body. This tends to aggravate back pain.
  • Poor Posture When Sitting - Hunching over with rounded shoulders and compressing the chest when sitting on the toilet. Causes muscle knots. 

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.

How Doctors Diagnose Upper Back Pain from Constipation 

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:

Medical History 

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. 

Physical Examination

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. 

Imaging Tests

X-rays or CT scans can confirm fecal impaction and identify any spine abnormalities contributing to back pain. 

Blood Tests

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.

Medical Treatments for Upper Back Pain from Constipation

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.

Stool Softeners 

Docusate sodium makes stools easier to pass by increasing moisture content. Again, less straining equals less upper back pain.

Prokinetic Agents

These medications, like prucalopride, stimulate muscle contractions to move stool through your colon more rapidly. This clears any obstructions. 

Enemas and Suppositories 

Your doctor may manually clear heavily impacted feces by injecting water or lubricating agents into your rectum to quickly flush out the colon.

Biofeedback Therapy

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.

Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes for Upper Back Pain with Constipation

Medical interventions aside, there are many natural ways to find relief from simultaneous upper back aches and constipation. Try:

OTC Laxatives

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.

Heat Therapy

Heating pads or warm baths relax tense, strained back muscles and increase blood flow to the area.

OTC Pain Relievers 

Non-prescription anti-inflammatories like Advil or Tylenol can alleviate back pain from constipation-related muscle spasms.

High Fiber Diet

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. 

Improve Toilet Posture

Use a footstool to elevate your knees above your hips while sitting. This straightens the colon for easier passing.

Try Yoga

Certain yoga poses massage abdominal organs and relax the colon, relieving constipation and reducing strain.

Avoid Binding Clothes

Tight pants put pressure on the abdomen. Opt for loose, comfortable clothing to take tension off the body.

See a Physical Therapist 

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.

Diagnosis and Specialist Referral for Chronic Upper Back and Abdominal Pain  

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:

  • Persistent or severe abdominal pain
  • Rectal bleeding 
  • Vomiting
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fever or chills
  • Severe or progressive upper back pain

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:

SpecialistHow They Can Help
GastroenterologistTreats disorders of the digestive system, including chronic constipation
Colorectal SurgeonPerforms surgical procedures involving the colon, rectum, and anus
NeurologistAddresses issues with nerves that may cause referred upper back pain
Physical TherapistImproves mobility and flexibility, and strengthens core/back muscles
ChiropractorProvides spinal manipulation and posture adjustment to relieve back pain
Pain Management SpecialistAdministers 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:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease 
  • Diverticulitis
  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
  • Multiple Sclerosis 
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Spinal Injuries

These disorders frequently undermine healthy bowel movements and generate upper back pain. Specialists can pinpoint tailored therapies to overcome the obstacles they present.

Advanced Testing for Ongoing Upper Back Pain and Constipation

For stubborn instances of simultaneous upper back aches and the inability to pass stool, your referred specialist may order advanced diagnostic testing:

  • Spinal MRI: Generates detailed images of the vertebrae, spinal cord, and nerve roots. Checks for impingement or trauma.
  • EMG: Measures electrical activity in muscles. Can identify nerve dysfunction causing referred upper back pain.
  • Defecography: Visualizes how stool moves through your anorectal area. Checks for physical defects.
  • Anorectal Manometry: Analyzes rectal and anal canal pressures that impact bowel movements. 
  • Blood Tests: Check for vitamin deficiencies or conditions like hypothyroidism that provoke constipation.

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.

Viable Treatments for Ongoing Upper Back Pain Related to Constipation 

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:

  • Biofeedback Therapy: Retrains pelvic floor muscles via sensors to promote proper bowel function.
  • Colon Hydrotherapy: Uses filtered water to gently flush stool out of the colon.
  • Sitz Bath: Warm water baths for the buttocks and hips to relax pelvic muscles.
  • Rectal/Colon Surgery: Reshapes damaged areas of the colon or rectum contributing to retention.
  • Sacral Nerve Stimulation: Electrical pulses to the sacral nerves induce bowel contractions.
  • Colectomy: Removes all or part of the colon in extreme cases.

Don’t continue tolerating agonizing upper back pain alongside constipation. Seek advanced solutions to get your life back on track.

How a Pain Management Center Can Help 

pain center for upper back pain

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:

  • Specialized Diagnostic Testing: Pinpoints unique causes of your upper back pain related to constipation issues. MRI, nerve conduction studies and more.
  • Multimodal Analgesia: Combined pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments customized to your needs.
  • Interventional Procedures: Targeted injections like epidurals directly into pain generators.
  • Physical Therapy: Stretches and exercises to decompress the spine and relax muscles. 
  • Behavioral Therapy: Counseling and support groups help modify thought patterns that exacerbate pain.
  • Nutritional Optimization: Dietary adjustments to reduce constipation and inflammation.

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.

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