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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is associated with many uncomfortable symptoms, including back pain. IBS and back pain often are associated, though there are many possible cause-and-effect relationships. In some cases, back pain seems to be a direct result of IBS, but patients also might experience discomfort because of IBS management techniques, such as a change in diet. A common cause might set off both, or stress caused by the pain might even be responsible for a bout of IBS.
IBS and back pain often are observed together and, in many cases, the IBS is directly responsible for the pain. Abdominal pain during bouts of IBS is most common, but pain can radiate to other areas, including the back. Discomfort caused by the condition might cause a change in posture, which can strain the back. Pressure from bloating also might be a source of distress.
Patients who have IBS are likely to feel uncomfortable and might be inclined to move less and sleep more. With a lack of movement and exercise come a lack of fitness and the increased likelihood of back injury, which can further discourage movement and prolong the condition.
Some foods might trigger especially violent bouts of IBS, and severe reactions are more likely to be accompanied by back pain. In cases of food intolerance, the body reacts aggressively, producing histamines responsible for symptoms such as back pain. Wheat and dairy products are especially suspect, but patients should avoid any ingredients known to cause a reaction.
The causes of IBS are not fully understood, but stress is widely believed to be a contributory factor. Stress can be responsible for muscle aches, including back pain. An injury to the lower back might generate sufficient stress to trigger a bout of IBS.
Controlling IBS and back pain might involve stress management techniques, a controlled diet or medication. Gentle exercise, such as walking or yoga, can help to strengthen back muscles and reduce stress. Patients should make a point of taking in plenty of water and controlling how much fruit and wholemeal products they eat. Massage also can help reduce stress and back pain.
Depending on the severity of the problem, consultation with a medical professional might be necessary. Non-prescription laxatives or anti-diarrhea medicines might be enough to relieve the discomfort, or antispasmodics, pain relievers or antidepressants might be prescribed.