Back pain can vary in severity and type, from sharp and stabbing to dull and aching. Back pain is common, as the back acts as a support and stabilizing system for your body, making it vulnerable to injury and strain.
Nausea is a sick feeling in the stomach—the feeling of needing to vomit.
Back pain and nausea often occur at the same time. Frequently, pain related to digestive or intestinal issues can radiate to the back. This is the case for biliary colic, a condition in which gallstones obstruct the gallbladder.
“Morning sickness” associated with pregnancy can cause nausea. Back pain is also common with pregnancy, as the weight of the growing fetus puts strain on the back. Often these symptoms are not a cause for concern for pregnant women. However, when nausea occurs after the first trimester, it may be a symptom of preeclampsia, a condition in which blood pressure becomes too high. If you are pregnant and experience nausea into your second trimester, seek medical advice.
Other conditions that can cause back pain and nausea include:
- chronic pancreatitis
- kidney stones or a kidney cyst
- menstrual cramps
If your nausea and back pain do not subside within 24 hours and/or your back pain is unrelated to an injury, make an appointment to see a doctor. Seek immediate medical attention if your back pain and nausea are accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- extreme physical weakness
- pain that starts in the right side and settles in the back (this could indicate appendicitis or biliary colic)
- pain that turns into weakness or numbness that radiates down one or both legs
- painful urination
- blood in the urine
- shortness of breath
- worsening symptoms
Make an appointment with your doctor if your back pain continues for more than two weeks after your nausea subsides.
(This information is a summary. Seek medical attention if you suspect you need urgent care.)
Treatments for back pain and nausea will address the underlying condition. Anti-nausea medications can help the immediate symptoms subside. Examples include dolasetron (Anzemet), granesitron (Granisol), and trimethobenzamide (Tigan), all of which can be taken while you are pregnant. If your back pain does not subside with rest and medical treatments, your physician may evaluate you for a more serious injury.
Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can help to relieve back pain, particularly when related to menstrual cramping. They may, however, make nausea worse.
While you may wish to avoid solid foods when you feel nauseated, taking small sips of water or a clear liquid, such as ginger ale or an electrolyte-containing solution, can help keep you hydrated. Eating several small meals of bland foods, such as crackers, clear broth, and gelatin, can also help settle the stomach.
Resting your back is a vital part of treating back pain. You can apply an ice pack covered in cloth for 10 minutes at a time the first three days after your back pain appears. After 72 hours, you may apply heat.
Although you cannot always avoid nausea and back pain, eating a healthy diet and avoiding excess alcohol will help prevent some causes, such as indigestion.