Constipation and Back Pain
Are those two conditions related?

People suffering from chronic constipation often wonder if constipation and back pain are related conditions.

On the other hand, chronic back pain sufferers are interested in figuring out the possible causes of their back pain, which could be constipation.

The purpose of this article is to explain that indeed, the two conditions are very much inter-related.

On the one hand, constipation can be a trigger for back pain. This can happen via subtle muscle tensions that accumulate due to constant pushing, and also via a phenomenon called “referred pain” that we will explain further down.

On the other hand, structural back issues can interfere with the defecation signaling processes as we will see below. In other words, spine issues can be a trigger for constipation.

So sit down comfortably in a chair that is friendly to your back, and let’s get started.

Constipation as a source of back pain

In this section, we examine constipation and back pain from the perspective of the constipation sufferer. In other words, we explain why constipation can be a trigger for back pain.

1. Inappropriate sitting position

If you have ever visited a chiropractor, an osteopath, or any other back specialist, you know the importance of keeping a good, straight posture when you sit.

Unfortunately, being constipated makes the whole sitting process difficult. There is a constant sensation of being uncomfortable in the belly area, which is often bloated and tender. This makes us unconsciously move about on the chair in order to find the “right” position, usually without success. We may end-up in a slouched, slanted, or twisted position without even realizing it.

My suggestions: my chiropractor recommended that I only sit on stools with my knees spread apart and my feet flat on the floor. He explained that when you spread your knees on a stool, it forces your lower back to arch a little and your upper back to remain straight. Further, the stool has no back support, thus exerting no pressure on your painful lower back.

It is not a miracle solution, but it is inexpensive (Ikea sells stools for less than $10 a piece) and provides relief. You can also buy a special stools called a “saddle stool” that forces you to spread your knees. This is what I did and I am very satisfied with my purchase (I am sitting on it as I type).

At a minimum, whenever you sit on that stool, you have to train yourself to:

  • Lay your feet flat on the floor
  • Spread your knees to force your back to follow its natural S position (see the red S on the picture below)

2. Too much pushing

Spending all that time on the toilets pushing is obviously not very good for the back. In the long run, this can create muscle tensions in the lower and even upper back, aggravate bad postural habits, and clearly explain the constipation and back pain relationship.

My suggestions:

If you already suffer from lower back pain, don’t insist when you are on the toilets. If nothing is coming out after a few pushes, get temporary help from laxative plants or other tools presented on this website.

Adopt the most effective and back-friendly position for defecation:

  • Knees higher than your hips with your foot resting flat on a foot rest
  • Upper body leaning forward with elbows resting on your knees
  • Straight back

See picture below, paying attention to the red triangle formed by your arms resting on your knees, your legs and your back.

3. Referred pain

Compared to our external organs (the muscle and skin layer that interfaces with the external world), our internal organs are usually not subject to a lot of pain stimuli.

We regularly bang our arms, scrape our knees, burn our fingers, etc. The brain is used to receive lots of stimuli from those external-facing organs.

But when the brain gets pain signals from internal organs, it sometimes interprets it as external pain, in the external region that corresponds to the internal organ from a nerve communication perspective. In other words, it gets a bit confused.

One typical example is pain from a damaged heart. The brain often expresses this signal as pain coming from the left side of the chest and parts of the left arm.

It can be the same for colonic pain. Pain created by a stretched out colon due to constipation can radiate into a region of the back, thus making you believe you have back issues. But the real issue could indeed be internal, from the colon, and caused by constipation.

My suggestions: unfortunately there is no quick fix here, if your back pain is referred, then constipation needs to be dealt with. Relieve constipation and back pain may go away.

4. Sedentary lifestyle

Many chronic constipation sufferers don’t feel comfortable going out, and the worse the condition becomes, the more their social life is impacted.

Being less on the move, practicing less sports means more structural issues in the long run. Which can explain the constipation and back pain connection.

My suggestions:

  • More and more work-out programs can be done from the comfort of your home and without any equipment. Youtube has many free videos that provide 5 minutes, 10 minutes or longer work outs. Getting back into a daily exercising routine can do wonder for your back.
  • You should, at a minimum, follow a gentle stretching routine daily. Youtube has lots of free videos that can help you stretch your back and legs gently to relieve your back pain. I personally found a lot of relief for my lower back-pain (with sciatica) by doing "nerve flossing" exercises.
  • Yoga, relaxation and medication can also be practiced from the safety of your home. It includes gentle stretching exercises and relaxation.

My favorite relaxation and medication program has been created by John Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. I use it myself on a regular basis, and it combines both relaxation and gentle yoga stretching exercises. I love this program, and wholeheartedly recommend it.

Relaxation can have positive effects not only on constipation and back pain problems, but on quality of life in general. Kabat-Zinn explains in his book the impressive results he gets in his clinic for serious health conditions and pain management.

He particularly explains that back-pain sufferers get great relief from his methods.

Back issues as a trigger for constipation

Back structural problems can trigger or aggravate constipation. The defecation reflex is a complex process that is initiated and orchestrated by the central nervous system.

The spine is a very important component of the central nervous system. It contains bundles of nerves that convey signals to and from the brain. Special bundles located in particular vertebras relay signals to the colon muscles for contraction and peristalsis (the wave-like motion that makes the stools move forward in our gut).

Therefore, any misalignment of the spine can potentially cause a signaling problems in the defecation process. Spinal adjustments performed by a skilled chiropractor or osteopath can sometimes relieve constipation in children as well as adults. It is worth a try.

Conclusion

In this article, we have gone through several reasons why constipation and back pain may be related.

First of all, we have seen that in some cases constipation appears first, and may have initiated some back pain issues. In other words, you could say that back-pain could be considered as a side-effect or symptom of constipation. This may be due to too much pushing, adopting the wrong position on the toilets, or simply a lack of physical activity. We have given suggestions to fix those issues.

We have also discussed the other side of the coin, the fact that vertebra misalignment can be a potential trigger for constipation, as it interferes with the defecation reflex signaling. This can be especially true for baby constipation or toddler constipation. A visit to your chiropractor may be enough to fix the problem.

Whatever condition came first, I hope this article helped you to better understand the correlation between constipation and back pain, in order to take appropriate actions in the near future to find some relief.


Return from Constipation and Back Pain to the Constipation Symptoms page

Return from Constipation and Back Pain to the Constipation-remedies-for-all home

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