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, it may very well be that the two are unrelated. However, for others, it could be "referred pain." That means the pain is felt someplace other than where it originates. In the case of IBS, that pain comes from the gut, and is often due to constipation, gas, and bloating.
Studies show that women who have pre-existing gastrointestinal symptoms are more likely to experience back pain than women who do not. Still, you should resist the temptation to self-diagnose. If you have back pain along with your IBS, don't assume they are related. Make an appointment to see your doctor. You'll want to know exactly what you're dealing with and what treatment options are available.
Treatment for IBS Pain
There is no single, definitive treatment for IBS or for IBS-related pain. The fact is, it's different for everybody. That means you must work with your doctor to find the right 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 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 can make matters worse, and some may interact with other medications.
Certain complementary treatments can help make your pain tolerable. For example:
- relaxation therapy: 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, thereby reducing stress and easing physical symptoms
- acupuncture: can be used to relax muscle spasms, which may relieve your back pain
- meditation, massage, and hypnotherapy: may help relax your muscles and reduce pain
- regular exercise: including Tai Chi and yoga, exercise may help with lower back pain
Back Pain and Sleep
Lower back pain can be a big problem when you're trying to sleep. You can improve your chances of a good night's sleep by creating a routine. Follow these tips to get started:
- Don't go to bed right after activity. Build in some relaxation time before going to bed.
- 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 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, consult with your doctor about medications and other treatments that may help.