I’ve had back pain in the past which somehow seemed different from my historic muscular or sciatica problems, and I’ve had clients tell me the same story. It was a more general feeling of dull discomfort, which seemed to ease after a bowel movement. So this got me wondering – can constipation cause lower back pain?
To my surprise, after a bit of research, I discovered that yes, there is a link between constipation and back pain.
Having 3 or fewer bowel movements a week
Abdominal pain with or without bloating
Hard, lumpy and dry stools
Inability to completely empty your bowels
Feeling like there is something blocking your stools
Straining in to have a bowel movement
A change in appetite
General stomach ache
Can constipation cause back pain on one side?
Sometimes the cause of right sided abdomen / back pain could be constipation. This is when it’s difficult for your bowels to work and may be due to hardened faeces, the pressure in your colon can result in pain radiating to your back.
Lifestyle, medication and medical conditions can all be common causes of constipation.
Within each of these, there are multiple things that can trigger constipation resulting in abdominal and/or back pain.
Not eating enough foods with fibre, such as vegetables and fruit
Change in your routine or eating habits
Stress and anxiety
Not drinking enough water to keep stools soft and promote movement through the bowels
Lack of exercise
Travelling away from home (the impact of different environments and diverse cuisine)
Eating junk food
Ignoring the need to have a bowel movement
Prescribed medication can cause constipation, if you have just started taking a new medication and notice that your bowel movements have changed, ask your Doctor if your medication could be the cause.
Constipation can also be cause by laxatives. Taking them too often may make you too dependant on them, which will impact negatively on your digestive system.
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is also a common cause of constipation.
If you are still struggling to identify the cause of your constipation, please see your doctor as it could also be a side effect of another health problem.
If you can identify the cause, you are one step closer to taking action to ease the situation, or hopefully solve the issue completely.
Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables
Try eating plain greek full fat yoghurt, it’s great for your microbiome
Increase the amount of water you drink each day.
Water promotes good digestion and regular bowel movements by keeping your stool soft and moving it easily through the digestive tract. Not drinking enough water can cause your body to pull water from stool to compensate for fluid loss, leading to a harder and firmer stool that is more difficult to pass.
Go to the loo as soon as you feel the urge and take your time to allow all of the stool to pass.
Get your heart and lungs going, and you’ll get your digestive system going, too. Any exercise, as long as it is not to the extreme, will increase intestinal contractions, tone and strengthen your colon walls and improve your digestive health:
- Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the organs of the body, and brings more blood to the digestive system resulting in stronger intestinal contractions and more digestive enzymes. The stronger the contractions and the more those juices flow, the more quickly and easily food waste will move through the colon and out of the body. Aerobic exercise can include walking, running, swimming, biking, and many other similar activities.
- One of the best choices of exercise for constipation relief is a brisk 10 to 20 minute walk. If you have eaten a large meal, you may want to wait an hour or so before walking. After you eat, blood flows to the intestines to help you digest your food. If you exercise immediately following a meal, blood will be diverted toward your heart and muscles and away from your digestive tract.
- If walking doesn’t appeal to you, try yoga. Yoga masters believe that certain yoga positions and breathing exercises aid digestion and strengthen stomach muscles, helping to relieve constipation.
My own experience of dealing with constipation is a bit varied. I tried a number of things:
Exercise didn’t help as much as I expected it would. I have never been a runner, and a walk along the beach didn’t do as much as I would have liked. I tried attending yoga classes twice a week unfortunately that also failed to encourage a daily visit to the loo!
My initial relief from constipation came from eating plain full fat greek yoghurt, but this wasn’t an ideal solution as I have a sensitivity to cows milk. Fortunately I found that switching to full fat Goats milk yoghurt still had the desired effect, but it wasn’t sufficient to erradicate the constipation completely.
The next stage was to reduce the amount of bread I ate – not an easy thing to do when you are eating on the run, as I often am. I really had to discipline myself to prepare different salads instead of sandwiches.
Then I heard Dr Michael Mosely (the TV doctor) recommending taking oral magnesium for constipation – this helped a lot, infact I still take magnesium on a daily basis.
The biggest turning point for me happened when I increased my intake of water. I hated water as a child, it just tasted ‘off’ to me. When water filters appeared in the supermarkets I was really happy, and so was my tummy.
At last I can enjoy the taste of water and have daily bowel movements!
Maybe making some lifestyle changes could make a difference for you to? If it does, do pop back and comment too let me know!
Dr Michael Moseley
Stephen Bickston, MD, professor of internal medicine and director of the inflammatory bowel disease program at Virginia Commonwealth University Health Center in Richmond, Va.
Beth W. Orenstein
Sabrena Merrill, MS, of Lawrence, Kan, a certified personal trainer and spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise.