back pain and swollen stomach

Back pain and swollen stomach: 6 possible causes (and what to do?)

Article reviewed and approved by Dr. Ibtissama Boukas, physician specializing in family medicine

Backache and swollen belly can occur at the same time, and cause unpleasant symptoms (sometimes even worrying!). This association is more common than one might imagine, and the related causes are usually benign.

In this article, we discuss 6 possible causes for the occurrence of back pain and bloating. We also offer solutions aimed at relieving symptoms. Finally, we expose the situations where it is essential to consult to eliminate a more serious attack.

Painful swollen belly and back pain: 6 possible causes

There are several causes that can lead to back pain associated with bloating. These causes include:

1. Hormonal changes

Any hormonal change can affect the human body. The easiest example to conceptualize is rules. Indeed, many women complain of back pain accompanied by bloating just before – or even during – their period. Women sometimes also complain of pain in the lower abdomen (or even to the ovaries).

These symptoms are usually nothing to worry about, especially if they follow a predictable pattern and don't cause serious problems.

Besides menstruation, a person on hormone therapy (such as hormone replacement therapy) may also experience a combination of back pain and stomach bloating. Of course, these changes should be discussed with your attending physician.

2. Pregnancy

During pregnancy (especially in the third trimester), it is not uncommon for the bloated belly to be accompanied by constipation, gas, or lower back pain. This is due in particular to the fact that the uterus begins to compress the organs.

pregnancy back pain Back pain and swollen belly

In addition, the additional weight and the displacement of the center of gravity modify the curvatures of the spine, and can cause back pain.

To know everything about low back pain during pregnancy, see the following article. 

Although it is always best to tell your doctor about any changes, you should know that these changes are harmless to the baby, and will usually disappear after delivery.

3. Back injury

A wide range of medical conditions can cause back pain. Sometimes this pain can radiate to other parts of the body and cause changes elsewhere.

disc extrusion

For example, a herniated disc can cause lower back pain radiating to the belly, and cause a feeling of a bloated belly in addition to various intestinal disorders.

4. Gastrointestinal disorders

There are many gastrointestinal disorders, and a doctor will be able to clarify the source of your symptoms. Something as innocuous as gas, for example, could make the abdomen feel full and painful. This discomfort can also radiate to the lumbar region, thus causing back pain in addition to the feeling of a bloated stomach.

In addition, gastrointestinal disorders are often accompanied by constipation or vomiting. In this context, it is not uncommon for some people to develop muscle spasms in the back region due to repeated exertion.

5. Stress

Besides the affected mood, it should be understood that stress is regularly accompanied by physiological changes. This includes physical pain, stomach upset, etc.

fibromyalgia stress

How, exactly? On the one hand, stress increases muscle tension, and it is not uncommon to develop (or even worsen) low back pain after a stressful event. The pains can also refer to the middle back, between the shoulder blades or top of the back.

On the other hand, a stomach ache and other gastrointestinal disorders associated with stress frequently give the feeling of a bloated belly. An underlying condition like irritable bowel syndrome can notably make symptoms worse.

6. Autoimmune diseases

An autoimmune disease occurs when the body's natural defense system fails to differentiate between its own cells and foreign cells, causing the body to mistakenly attack "normal" cells. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases that cause various symptoms depending on their etiology.

Some of the most recognized autoimmune diseases include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis
  • Crohn's disease
  • celiac disease
  • Hashimoto's disease
  • And many more functions

In terms of symptoms, back pain and stomach bloating are part of the clinical picture of many of these autoimmune diseases. Added to this are fatigue, joint pain, dermatological disorders (skin problems), digestive problems, recurring fever, etc.

To know everything about back pain of inflammatory origin, see the following article.

infographic explaining the relationship between back pain and tummy

When to consult? (serious causes of back pain and swollen stomach)

Fortunately, back pain that is accompanied by bloating is usually mild. Moreover, it is possible that the two symptoms are not related, as for example in a person suffering from chronic low back pain caught gas causing stomach pain.

On the other hand, it happens that these symptoms come from a serious attack requiring an urgent medical intervention. Examples include the following medical conditions:

  • affection of the spinal cord
  • cancer (pancreas, ovaries, etc.)
  • liver disorders
  • abdominal aortic aneurysms
  • serious gastrointestinal disorders (such as peritonitis or bowel obstruction)

Considering the potential risk, it is best to consult your doctor if the symptoms do not subside within a few days, or if you observe one of the following signs:

stethoscope which represents a medical consultation
  • unbearable, fast-onset pain
  • rectal bleeding
  • associated medical condition
  • recent history of spinal injury
  • fever
  • vomiting

Treatment: What to do?

To be able to effectively treat back pain associated or not with a feeling of bloated belly, it is necessary to identify the exact source of the problem. This step is essential to observe conclusive results, and a qualified healthcare professional can guide you through this process.

For example, a doctor may perform a physical exam to assess the mobility of your vertebrae, the integrity of your nervous system, your muscular strength, etc. He will first ask you questions about your symptoms, your medical history, your eating habits, your general state of stress, etc.

If necessary, he will prescribe a medical imaging examination to assess the integrity of the structures potentially responsible for your symptoms. This can be an x-ray, CT scan, MRI, etc. A blood test can also help clarify the diagnosis.

mri machine back pain and swollen stomach

In terms of treatment, it will depend on the results of the tests mentioned above. The care will be individualized, and monitored regularly to ensure optimal progress. Strategies regularly recommended by healthcare professionals include:

  • take appropriate medication (painkiller, anti-gas and flatulence medication, etc.)
  • apply a heating pillow on the back or stomach
  • temporarily use a lumbar belt designed to support the lower back region, and which exerts a slight compressive force on the stomach
  • drink enough water
  • getting tested to determine if you have certain food allergies
  • adopt a anti-inflammatory diet
  • try a gluten-free diet
  • rest and manage stress
  • do deep breathing exercisesdiaphragmatic breathing)
  • consult a naturopath to benefit from natural products and essential oils
  • consider alternative treatments such as acupressure mat pou
  • consult an osteopath
  • losing weight

What about natural remedies?

Although they are not supported by solid scientific evidence, several natural products and grandmother's remedies are used to treat lower back pain, especially for their anti-inflammatory power.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of plants and essential oils that are effective in controlling pain and inflammation. The products are available on the site Country. Use promo code LOMBAFIT15 if you wish to obtain one of the following products, or any remedy aimed at relieving your symptoms and improving your quality of life:

  • Turmeric. Thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers very powerful, turmeric is one of the most used plants in a culinary and therapeutic context. The composition of turmeric is essentially made of essential oils, vitamins (B1, B2, B6, C, E, K) and trace elements. But it is to its composition rich in curcumin and curcuminoids that we owe them and calm skin of this spice.
  • Ginger. In addition to the special flavor it brings to the kitchen and its aphrodisiac properties, ginger is a root well known for its anti-inflammatory powers. the gingerol gives it its anti-inflammatory action. It is an active component acting on the inflammatory pain related to chronic joint inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, rheumatic diseases, etc. It has been proven that this active element is also effective in acting on the inflammation linked to arthritis and sciatica. Ginger also has other benefits thanks to its high potassium content and its richness in trace elements (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium) and vitamins (provitamin and vitamin B9).
  • Omega-3s. Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that play a very important role in the functioning of our body. They are provided by food in three natural forms: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Beyond their action on the brain and the cardiovascular system, omega-3s prove very effective against inflammation. Indeed, they have the ability to act on the inflammatory mechanisms in osteoarthritis by slowing down cartilage destruction, thus they reduce the intensity of osteoarthritis pain. Sciatica, being most often linked to an inflammation secondary to a herniated disc, it can also respond to omega-3 provided it is consumed regularly. 
  • Lemon eucalyptusEucalyptus is a plant most often used in the form of herbal tea or essential oil. She would have anti-inflammatory effects which give it the ability to act on the bone and joint pain in general and the pain of sciatica in particular.
  • wintergreen. Wintergreen is a shrub from which a very interesting essential oil is extracted. It is one of the most used essential oils in aromatherapy. This oil extracted from the shrub bearing the same name, is used in massage to relieve sciatica and act like a analgesic. Indeed, it provides a heating effect thanks to its ability toactivate blood circulation locally.



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