People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sometimes report symptoms that appear to be unrelated to IBS. One frequently mentioned and seemingly unrelated symptom is lower back pain, especially during the night.

For some people, the two may be unrelated. For others, this could be "referred pain." Referred pain is felt someplace other than where it originates. In the case of IBS, that pain comes from the gut. This pain is often due to constipation, gas, or bloating.

Studies show that women who have pre-existing gastrointestinal symptoms are more likely to experience back pain than women who do not. However, you should resist the temptation to self-diagnose. If you have back pain along with your IBS, don't assume that they are related. Make an appointment to get the back pain evaluated by your doctor. You'll want to know exactly what you're dealing with and what treatment options are available.

Treatment for IBS Pain

There isn’t a single, definitive treatment for IBS or for IBS-related pain. Treatment is different for everybody and you should work with your doctor to find the best way to relieve your pain. Sometimes it takes a combination of medication and complementary therapies. 

Lower back pain can be caused by gas, bloating, or constipation. Medications that relieve constipation and gas may ease your back pain in the process. Certain probiotics have also been shown to relieve bloating and pain. Probiotics are available in powders, tablets, and in certain foods like yogurt.

Check with your doctor before adding over-the-counter dietary supplements to your daily routine. Some supplements can make matters worse and some may interact with other medications.

Certain complementary treatments can help your pain. These may include:

  • Relaxation techniques: Deep breathing, abdominal breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization exercises can help reduce stress and fatigue and improve mood.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: Some studies show that this can help change negative moods and habits. This can reduce stress and ease physical symptoms.
  • Acupuncture: This can be used to relax muscle spasms, which may relieve your back pain.
  • Meditation, massage, and hypnotherapy: Any one of these practices may help relax your muscles and reduce pain.
  • Regular exercise: Options such as Tai Chi and yoga may help with lower back pain.

Back Pain and Sleep

Lower back pain can be a problem when you're trying to sleep. You can improve your chances of getting a good night's sleep by creating a routine. Follow these tips to get started:

  • Build in some relaxation time before going to bed. Don't go to bed right after activity.
  • Don't consume heavy food or caffeine for at least four hours before you plan to go to bed.
  • Go to bed at roughly the same time each night, and get up at the same time each morning.
  • Use your bed for two things only: sleep and sex. That means no working, eating food, or watching television in bed.
  • Get in a little exercise each day. 

By having a sleep routine, you can train your body to be more receptive to sleep.

If your back pain is keeping you awake despite your best efforts, speak with your doctor about medications and other treatments that may help.