Woman is experiencing lower back pain

Can IBS Cause Back Pain?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is described as a collection of symptoms that impact the digestive tract. Often, people with IBS will experience stomach pain, diarrhea, and constipation. However, one of the lesser talked about symptoms is back pain.

Understanding more about this symptom can help you treat it and regain some comfort. So, can IBS cause back pain? Let’s take a look.

Causes of Back Pain

Some studies have suggested that back pain associated with IBS is often classified as “referred pain.” This type of pain occurs when a person perceives pain in a certain location of the body where it doesn’t exactly exist.

For example, an individual suffering from a heart attack may complain about pain in their jaw. However, they aren’t truly experiencing that pain; rather, it is a referred pain that is brought on by the heart attack itself.

In the case of IBS back pain, the pain is actually occurring in the gut due to inflammation, constipation, or gas and bloating. Because of this, it is often suggested to focus on the gut rather than the back pain itself in order to find relief.

Issues with IBS-Related Back Pain

One of the most discussed issues that people experience when they endure IBS-related back pain is sleep loss. The inability to get comfortable can make it incredibly difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. In order to combat this issue, professionals suggest the following:

  • Make sure that your bed is only used for sleeping and sex. This means you shouldn’t eat in your bed as this could be a trigger for back pain and other symptoms.
  • Try to go to sleep at the same time each night so you can create a healthy sleep pattern.
  • Create a relaxation routine to help your body prepare for sleep.
  • Consider using a firmer mattress to support your back.

Sleep is important. If your sleep pattern is disrupted by IBS-related symptoms, then you should let your doctor know right away. There may be other medications or treatments that you can use to help you get the sleep that your body so desperately needs.

Treatment Options

As with any other IBS symptom, effective treatment will likely vary from patient to patient. There are a variety of over-the-counter medications that will relieve other common discomforts associated with IBS, but you should discuss those options with your doctor before use.

Because relaxation is often the most effective treatment for IBS symptoms, there are a variety of techniques you can use.

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Regular exercise can help people with IBS. Some studies indicate that gas and bloating are reduced when a person remains active. This allows for less build up in the abdomen. As a result, it’s less likely that a person will feel the back-pain sensation.

Keep in mind, exercise does not have to be rigorous. It should be maintained on a regular schedule, at least three times per week.


It doesn’t matter if your back pain is referred or not. A massage can greatly reduce the stress and tension that is felt in the back. A professional massage therapist will know the proper way to massage the area of the body and hopefully help you find relief.


Another way to relax is by meditating. Learning to breathe properly and clear your mind can reduce the tension and stress that your body may regularly feel from IBS symptoms. This can take some time to learn but is likely worth it to help you achieve total relaxation.


Believe it or not, sometimes physical symptoms can be relieved by cognitive therapy. This method can help people self-regulate their emotions and work through some of the stressors that makes their IBS worse.


Acupuncture may be able to relieve back spasms that people sometimes feel more regularly when they have IBS. Of course, you should consult your doctor before electing this procedure.

When to See a Doctor

While back pain may or may not be a felt or “referred pain” matters very little when a person is in constant discomfort. However, there are other serious signs that you may be suffering from IBS. Those signs include:

  • Severe bloating
  • Consistent pain and overall discomfort in the stomach
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Looser and more frequent stools
  • Irregular bowel habits

If you suffer from any of the above symptoms, then you should contact your doctor. There are a variety of treatment options for IBS, and you don’t have to suffer through it on your own.


Back pain is commonly associated with IBS. While there is not a lot of research that can indicate why exactly it occurs, there are treatment options available.

The treatment options focus on managing the condition as a whole, and learning how your body responds to certain methods. For more information about IBS and back pain, reach out to your medical provider.