According to a recent survey, nearly 20 percent of Americans and a third of those 60 and older report suffering from chronic constipation. Defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week, constipation is often related to a blockage in the colon or rectum and associated with abdominal discomfort. However, there are times when pain could extend to the lower back as well. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at why this might be the case.
One way pain related to constipation can make its way to the lower back is if discomfort caused by a blockage in the colon or rectum extends into this area. If this is the case, the resulting discomfort is usually a duller type of ache than the sharp pain often associated with problems in the lumbar (lower) spine, such as what you might experience with a damaged or herniated spinal disc.
Even if you do have constipation and pain in your lower back at the same time, the two problems may not be related. This is more likely to be the case if your back pain is more severe. Conditions unrelated to constipation that could be contributing to lower back discomfort include:
The only way to know for sure if there’s a connection between your constipation and lower back pain is to see a doctor for a thorough examination. If no structural issues or clear problems affecting your lumbar spine are found after tests are performed, you may be advised to manage your constipation by:
• Eating more fiber-rich foods (e.g., whole grains, leafy green vegetables, prunes and other fruits, lentils, and beans)
• Striving to drink about 64 ounces of water per day to prevent dehydration and keep your digestive tract working efficiently
• Getting regular exercise, which is also good for your lower back
• Sticking to a regular bathroom schedule to encourage normal bowel movements
Over-the-counter medications can be helpful as well. Check with your doctor first, since laxatives can produce potentially serious side effects if used on a long-term basis or not taken as directed. If your constipation is successfully treated and you’re still experiencing lower back pain, see your doctor again or consult a Santa Monica spine surgeon to find out why.
It’s also possible to have issues with constipation following spine surgery to correct a problem in your lower back. Patients may experience constipation related to lingering effects from anesthesia, reduced activity levels that are common after surgery, post-surgery dietary changes, or the use of post-surgery pain medications. This type of constipation is usually temporary and likely to go away once you return to your normal activity level and diet.
Depending on what’s causing your lower back pain, it can be treated in a variety of ways.
At The Spine Institute, we specialize in minimally invasive fusion and non-fusion procedures, such as back fusion alternatives and lumbar disc replacement. Santa Monica patients can rely on our team of spine health experts to determine the best way to prevent back pain and treat all types of spinal issues. Call one of our friendly staff members today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.