It’s not unusual to have an upset stomach after eating every now and then. You may even feel a little tired following a hearty meal, which is also perfectly normal. For some people, eating can also contribute to spine-related discomfort and make them think they need to see a Santa Monica spine surgeon. However, the discomfort may be nothing more than a minor digestive irritation. Other times, it could be a sign of something potentially serious, including issues not specifically related to the spine. Here’s a closer look at possible underlying causes of back pain associated with eating.
While most people associate heartburn (acid reflux) with a burning sensation in the chest or throat, it’s possible to have discomfort that extends to the middle part of the back. Referred pain may also be felt in the arms and shoulders. If there are no detected issues with nerve compression around your spine that may be causing such symptoms, reduce your consumption of overly acidic or spicy foods to minimize issues with acid reflux or GERD (gastrointestinal reflux disease).
A sore in the small intestines or stomach is called an ulcer. One possible symptom associated with an ulcer in this location is back pain felt in the mid-back (thoracic) area. Since ulcers can also develop in the esophagus, it’s not unusual for symptoms to become more noticeable when food is consumed. If an ulcer is found, treatment usually involves a combination of antibiotics and stomach acid suppression medication.
3. Poor Posture
Eating is often a social experience with a focus on conversation and the various dishes and beverages being enjoyed. Consequently, you may not notice you are hunching over or shifting excessively to one side or the other. However, poor posture patterns can contribute to back pain that seems to coincide with eating. Similar posture issues can result from slouching on the couch while snacking and watching TV. The remedy for this type of eating-related back pain is to be more mindful of your posture by:
- Sitting straight up in your chair at the table
- Keeping your legs straight and not crossed
- Making a conscious effort to align your head with your shoulders
- Adjusting food placement on the table so you’re not excessively reaching
4. Gallbladder Inflammation
Located under the liver on the right side of the abdomen, the gallbladder is the organ that breaks down fat from various foods. If you’re one of the 20 million or so Americans with gallstones or related inflammation, eating may produce abdominal pain that radiates to the middle or upper part of your spine. If this is the source of your back pain, talk to your doctor about treatment options such as medication, diet adjustments, or surgery.
Pancreatitis is a disease characterized by abdominal pain triggered by inflammation of the pancreas, a gland located behind the stomach in the upper abdomen that helps with digestion and blood sugar regulation. Because of the way the pancreas functions, otherwise mild symptoms may become more noticeable when eating. In some instances, the discomfort is relegated to the abdomen and back area, which may be mistaken for pain related to muscle spasms. Treatment sometimes includes fasting for a few days to give the gland time to recover or medication to control the inflammation.
If back-related symptoms from any of the above sources are mild and not too disruptive, you may benefit from anti-inflammatory medications, diet or lifestyle changes, and a little rest. However, back pain accompanied by nausea and chest pain may not just be severe heartburn. It could also be a sign of a heart attack. Kidney infections and urinary tract infections can also be underlying conditions contributing to discomfort around the back. Should you have other symptoms in addition to back pain or don’t have any existing spine issues that could be the source of your discomfort, err on the side of caution and seek medical attention.
Chronic back pain typically isn’t caused by diet. Oftentimes, the only way to alleviate the pain is to undergo a minimally invasive procedure such as decompression surgery or total disc replacement. Santa Monica residents who are seeking relief for their back pain can call The Spine Institute today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.