Back pain can vary in severity and type, from sharp and stabbing to dull and aching. Back pain is common because the back acts as a support and stabilizing system for the body, making it vulnerable to injury and strain.
Vomiting occurs when the contents of your stomach are forcefully ejected from your mouth. Food poisoning and viral infections are common causes of vomiting.
What causes back pain and vomiting?
When you experience back pain with vomiting, it’s important to consider when your back pain started. For example, forceful vomiting could lead to back pain and strain. Common causes of vomiting include:
- food poisoning
- infections (usually related to bacterial and viral illnesses)
- motion sickness
Back pain and vomiting are also commonly associated with a urinary tract infection (UTI) or kidney infection. These conditions result when bacteria build up in the urinary tract, leading to infection. A kidney infection is the more serious of the two. Other symptoms of a kidney infection include blood in the urine, pain in the side of the torso, chills, and fever.
Morning sickness associated with pregnancy can cause nausea and vomiting. Back pain is also common with pregnancy, as the weight of the growing baby 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. Preeclampsia is a condition where blood pressure becomes too high. If you are pregnant and experience nausea into your second trimester, seek medical advice from your doctor.
Less common causes of back pain and vomiting include:
- bacterial meningitis
- Crohn’s disease
- a spinal tumor
- uterine fibroids, noncancerous tumors in the uterus
Other causes of back pain and vomiting include:
- premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- kidney stones
- ectopic pregnancy
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- pancreatic cancer
- West Nile virus infection
- yellow fever
- heart attack
- abdominal aortic aneurysm
When to seek medical help
Most vomiting will subside within a day. If back pain is the result of vomiting, it should also subside after a few days of rest.
Seek immediate medical attention if you are pregnant and experiencing these symptoms unrelated to morning sickness. Call your doctor right away if you have the following symptoms in addition to back pain and vomiting:
- blood in your vomit or stool
- extreme physical weakness
- a severe headache and stiff neck
- loss of control over bladder or bowel movements
- severe abdominal pain
- worsening symptoms
Also, call your doctor if your back pain continues after your vomiting subsides or if vomiting continues for 24 hours.
Treating back pain and vomiting
Treatment for back pain and vomiting will address the underlying condition. Your doctor may prescribe antiemetics, or medications that stop vomiting.
Hydration is important after you’ve experienced a bout of vomiting, because you lose fluids when you vomit. You can rehydrate by drinking small sips of water, ginger ale, or a clear electrolyte-containing beverage that doesn’t contain excess sugars.
Waiting about six hours after a vomiting spell to eat can reduce the likelihood that you will vomit again. When you do eat, focus on soft and bland foods such as crackers or applesauce. Eating several small meals a day also helps to keep nausea at bay.
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. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can relieve pain after your vomiting subsides.
Preventing back pain and vomiting
Although you can’t always prevent back pain and vomiting, you can take steps to avoid triggers. Common triggers include:
- drinking too much alcohol
- eating too much food
- eating foods that are undercooked
- excess stress
- poor hygiene when preparing food