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IBS & Back Pain

Back Pain & IBS

Many IBS patients suffer symptoms beyond the gastrointestinal tract, including headaches, fatigue, muscle weakness, and back pain. This article will explore the relationship between back pain and IBS and offer some practical solutions to help alleviate pain and strengthen the organism.  

The Connection Between Back Pain & IBS 

Back pain in IBS could be driven by different factors. It can also be difficult to differentiate between pain stemming from the lower gastrointestinal tract and the lower back due to the connection between the digestive system and the central nervous system. 


IBS symptoms such as abdominal bloating, irregular bowel movements, and gastrointestinal discomfort cause inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract which sits in the center of the abdominal cavity. 

This inflammation can affect the surrounding areas, the lungs, rib cage and thoracic spine (middle back), the bladder, reproductive organs, the lumbar spine (lower back), and the sacrum and pelvic muscles which can be vulnerable and highly sensitive during IBS flares. 

The Central Nervous System 

The CNS controls both voluntary and involuntary movements including digestion. It sends nerve signals to and from the digestive tract directing the complex functions of digestion. If the nervous system is highly sensitive, you may feel pain signals from the digestive tract as if they originate from the back. This may be further exacerbated if the brain signals that usually block pain messages are not functioning well. 

Radiating or Referred Pain 

Sometimes, the pain we experience in one organ or muscle group stems from a different body part. This is known as ‘referred pain’, which occurs due to the interconnected pathways of the nervous system. The stomach is largely innervated by the celiac plexus, and this communication can become cross-wired, sending pain signals to the spinal cord. This may be one reason by back pain is felt during gastrointestinal disturbances. 

Managing Back Pain with IBS

Apart from reducing known inflammatory causes such as triggering foods or stress on the nervous system, we can help strengthen and build our organism structurally to better support our health. An anti-inflammatory diet is crucial, as well as exercise, bodywork, and movement.

Anti-inflammatory supplements or herbal adaptogens that calm the nervous system may also help manage overall symptoms.  

Check Your Back 

Just as IBS symptoms may feel like back pain, problems stemming from spinal issues may exasperate digestive IBS symptoms. Studies show a connection between common IBS symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, and spinal problems. 

A check-up with a physiotherapist, chiropractor, or osteopath may help identify and differentiate the source of your back pain. 

Strengthen Your Muscles 

Back pain and IBS can be managed by strengthening both abdominal and back muscles, as well as leg and arm muscles. The muscles themselves release serotonin every time we use them, which regulates mood and memory but also GI balance. 

Join an Iyenga or Hatha (body) yoga class, which focuses on structural alignment and muscle strength. Pilates also helps build and strengthen your core – the muscles of your abdominal and sacral areas. Building muscle strength in the arms and legs using weights or muscle-building exercises helps support the back and allows the abdomen to remain firm yet soft. 

Meditation and breathwork also require a strong back and strong abdominal muscles so daily practice can help you build your core strength (and improve the balance of your gut bacteria!).   

Keep Your Spine Flexible 

Movement is key to maintaining a flexible spine, especially if your job involves hours sitting in front of a screen. If you can raise your desk and work standing, that will help strengthen your back and leg muscles. 

Dance, Tai Chi, Tai Massage, Shiatsu, Feldenkreis, walking, swimming, or gentle creative movement will help keep your spine flexible so that the flow of information along the nerves can be restored.  





This blog is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice. The content provided is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options. The claims made regarding specific products in this blog are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.


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