You know how bothersome a bout of constipation can be: the painful pressure or cramping in your abdomen, a distended belly, feelings of fullness. But if you’ve ever experienced lower back discomfort at the same time, you may be wondering if the two are linked. Can constipation cause back pain? It turns out the answer is yes. Fortunately, getting things moving again makes everything feel better. Read on to learn why constipation is a top sneaky cause of back pain, and the best home cures for gentle, effective relief.
Common causes of constipation
Sure, rich or heavy foods are often to blame for having a limited number of stools per week or difficulty in passing them. But diet isn’t the only constipation trigger. “Some common reasons for constipation may be a slow transit time through the colon or a pelvic floor issue which can cause trouble with defecation,” explains gastroenterologist Yuying Luo, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai West & Morningside in New York, NY. “Pelvic floor issues are more common in women. Factors such as medications and hormonal changes for women can play a role in constipation, too.” (Click through to our sister publication to discover the benefits of a pelvic floor massage.)
How constipation can cause back pain
Constipation often flies under the radar when it comes to back pain triggers, but it shouldn’t. “Constipation remains a leading cause of excruciating pain in the back,” says Greg Crisp, MD, an interventional pain physician at Spine Team Pain Center in Spokane, WA.
“If constipation does cause lower back pain, it may be because of significant stool burden leading to a pressure sensation,” explains Dr. Luo. Picture a river that narrows as it approaches a dam. There are large volumes of water pressing against the dam, applying large amounts of pressure and growing higher by the minute. Yet the dam won’t give. Now picture the river as your intestines and the dam as your backside.
“This triggers pain in your back that feels like a dull ache at the beginning, but can worsen if left unattended for a long time,” Dr. Crisp says, adding that it can be caused by either regular constipation or a more serious condition called fecal impaction. “When you are constipated, the extra fecal matter sitting in your bowel makes the intestines swell up,” he explains. “This blockage in your digestive tract puts enormous pressure on the muscles of your body especially your back, leading it to ache and become sore.”
What constipation-induced back pain feels like
As Dr. Crisp notes, back pain caused by constipation will start as a mild ache in your lower back. But eventually, if constipation is left untreated, the pain can intensify and spread throughout your abdomen or even to your lower limbs. As opposed to an acute injury or a bruise on the outside, the ache will feel like it originates from the inside, pressing out on your backside and lower back.
Other possible causes of lower back pain
“There can be several other causes of back pain which could mimic the discomfort of constipation,” Dr. Crisp says. It all depends on where the pain is coming from. “The pain could originate from the front of the spine, such as discs, due to degenerative changes or even compression fractures,” he explains. “Pain could also stem from stenosis, or narrowing around the spinal canal or nerve roots. It could even come from the facet joints, along the back of the spine, or from lumbar muscles.” Other common causes of lower back pain in include sitting for prolonged periods of time, sleep positions that strain the spine, or simply carrying extra weight. (Click through to discover how ginger can help with back pain and other natural back pain relievers.)
The good news: When constipation is the cause of your back pain, it’s usually easier to spot. That’s because you’ll also feel backed up or notice changes in your bowel movements, and the pain will feel like it’s pressing out the back of your lower spine rather than the front or sides.
The 7 best home cures for constipation
If constipation is the cause of the pain in your lower back, help is here! One of these natural remedies can get things moving again gently and effectively — no harsh laxatives needed. And once the blockage is gone, your back pain will be, too.
1. Try molasses for constipation
After whipping up your go-to molasses marinade, keep a jar of the sweet stuff handy. According to a study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, this thick, rich sweetener works just as well as laxatives for easing constipation, minus the side effects like gas and cramping. It brims with minerals that have a gentle laxative effect. And spooning up just 1 Tbs. when you’re feeling backed up (or stirring it into a cup of tea!) can provide relief in as little as eight hours.
2. Put your feet up
If you’re heading to the toilet with hopes of a bowel movement, bring along a stool or small box that’s at least 7” tall to put your feet on. This will put your legs into ideal the squatting position in which the human body is designed to go to the bathroom. That’s an effect that research in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found reduces strain in 90% of people, increases bowel emptiness in 85% of folks and reduces time spent in the bathroom for 71% of people.
Also smart: taking 5 to 15 deep breaths when you sit down on the toilet. Deep breathing engages the diaphragm, which enhances relaxation while creating an internal massaging action. No wonder a study in Colorectal Disease suggets the technique as much as doubles bowel movement success.
3. Try an “I love you” massage
Gently massaging your abdomen when you’re feeling backed up reduces time spent in the restroom by 57% and increases trips to the toilet by 70%, a study in Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Journal found. One easy strategy: The “I love you” massage. This simple method has been shown to reduce even severe constipation by 65% when done for 15 minutes twice daily, according to research in Complementary Therapies in Medicine.
To do: Trace each letter 10 times before morning onto the next. First, trace the letter “I” by gently pressing down from beneath your left rib cage to the left hip bone. Next, trace the letter “L” by running your hand across the top of your belly from right to left, then continue along the left “I” line. Finally, trace the letter U, gliding your hands from your right hipbone up to your ribcage, across your abdomen and then down the “I” line on your left side. (Click through to our sister publication for another GI massage for stomach ache and constipation.)
4. Relax with a castor oil wrap for constipation
“Castor oil packs relieve constipation by helping the intestines relax and provide lubrication and softening of tight muscles,” explains women’s health expert Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD. Simply soak folded wool flannel in 100% pure, cold-pressed castor oil and heat it slowly in a baking dish in the oven until hot to the touch. Then rub 3 Tbs. of castor oil onto your abdomen, place the soaked flannel on top and cover with plastic wrap. Cover with a heating pad and relax for one hour. (Click through to discover the whole range of benefits associated with castor oil packs and details for how to make them.)
5. Sip senna tea for constipation
Leaves from the senna plant contain sennosides that stimulate the intestines to help get things moving. In fact, a study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology found that 69% of constipated folks who were given 1 gram of senna, such as with senna tea, experienced relief from constipation in as little as six hours. Those are results that are nearly six times better than those who didn’t take senna. One to try: NOW Foods Real Tea Organic Senna (Buy from iHerb.com, $5.13).
6. Snack on prunes for constipation
Prunes are one of the oldest kitchen cures for constipation for a good reason. University of Iowa scientists say that eating just three to five of the dried plums (or sipping 1 cup of prune juice) works better than psyllium fiber, the key ingredient in Metamucil, at easing a GI backup. That’s all thanks to the way they draw water into the bowel to speed relief. And in a separate study in the journal Food & Function, researchers found that prunes increase levels of the gut-healing bacteria lachnospiraceae. That’s a beneficial boost that can curb the risk of future constipation flare-ups.
7. Take magnesium oxide for constipation
For relief from backed up bowels by morning, try taking magnesium oxide before bed. Doing so can improve bowel function in as little as eight hours. Research in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility found the mineral helps the GI muscles contract, moving food along and alleviating backups. One to try: Global Healing Oxy-Powder (Buy from Walmart.com, $29.95). (Click through to see how upping your intake of magnesium can speed weight loss, too.)
Need extra help for stubborn constipation?
If constipation is the cause of your back pain and home cures aren’t delivering the relief you need, consider an innovative prescription option. A new drug-free treatment for constipation, which was approved by the FDA earlier this year, involves taking a pill that vibrates in your colon to prompt the movement of food down your GI tract (you’ll automatically excrete it out afterwards in a bowel movement). The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Gastroenterology, found that this doubled the number of bowel movements folks had per week. Plus, their study suggests it may help retrain the colon to function normally over time. Talk to your doctor to see if Vibrant capsules are right for you.
Read on for more natural ways to alleviate constipation:
Research: Castor Oil Packs Proven to Relieve Constipation, Menstrual Cramps & Joint Pain
This Surprising Constipation Cure Brings Quick Relief
10 Foods That Fight Constipation and Boost Gut Health
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
Woman’s World aims to feature only the best products and services. We update when possible, but deals expire and prices can change. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission.
Questions? Reach us at email@example.com
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
BOGO Never Felt So Good
Whether you’re looking to sleep better, have less anxiety, get pain relief or simply unwind the mind, these award-winning CBD Gummies from Sky Wellness do just the trick! Available in a variety of flavors, don’t miss this special BOGO offer. Learn more at SkyWellness.com.