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Can Spinal Issues Cause Digestive Problems?

Mohommed Essop-Adam
Reviewed by Mohommed Essop-AdamReviewed on 30.10.2023 | 6 minutes read

Back pain is a common condition that can affect people of all ages. It can be caused by factors such as poor posture, injury, or worsening conditions like arthritis. However, not many people are aware that spinal problems can also impact digestion.

This is because the central nervous system (CNS) plays a significant role in controlling the movement and function of the muscles and organs in the digestive system. When the CNS is disrupted, it can lead to digestive problems, such as bloating, gas, and constipation.

Also, spinal misalignments can cause nerve pinchs that affect the communication between the CNS and the digestive system. This can lead to further digestive issues, such as acid reflux, diarrhoea, and loss of appetite.

It is important to note that not all digestive issues are caused by spinal problems. However, if you have back pain and digestive problems, you should talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you determine whether your symptoms are related to spinal issues and suggest appropriate treatment options.

What Spinal Problems Can Affect Digestion?

The spine is an essential structure that supports our body and protects our spinal cord. Any changes in its proper functioning can lead to the opposite, spinal dysfunction, which can cause various symptoms, including back pain, decreased mobility, and even digestive issues.

A herniated disc is one of the most common spinal problems that can affect digestion. It occurs when the soft inner core of a spinal disc pushes out through a crack in the tough exterior. This can irritate nearby nerves and cause pain, numbness, or weakness in the affected area. When a herniated disc occurs in the lower back, it can also affect the nerves that control the digestive system, leading to symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits.

Other spinal problems that can affect digestion include:

  • Spinal stenosis: a narrowing of the spinal canal that can put pressure on the nerves that control digestion.
  • Degenerative disc disease: a condition that occurs when the discs between the vertebrae wear down and lose their cushioning, leading to nerve compression and digestive problems.
  • Spinal cord injury: an injury that affects the nerves that control bowel and bladder function, leading to digestive problems.

When Should You Seek Medical Help?

If you're experiencing back pain along with digestive problems, it's crucial to consult a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will conduct a thorough medical evaluation to determine the root cause of your symptoms and recommend a suitable treatment plan. Remember, ignoring these symptoms can lead to more severe problems in the future.

While many cases of spinal and digestive issues can be managed effectively with appropriate treatment, it's important to recognise signs that may indicate a more serious underlying condition. In some cases, these symptoms could be indicative of conditions such as ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, or abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is often called the "silent killer" because it can go undetected until it has reached an advanced stage. This type of cancer originates in the ovaries and can spread to other parts of the body. Symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:

  • Abdominal bloating: Ovarian cancer can cause the abdomen to become swollen, often leading to discomfort or a feeling of fullness.
  • Pelvic pain: Persistent or recurring pelvic pain may be a symptom of ovarian cancer. This pain may be dull or sharp and can vary in intensity.
  • Changes in bowel habits: Ovarian cancer can affect the digestive system, leading to changes in bowel habits such as constipation, diarrhoea, or increased frequency of bowel movements.

If you experience these symptoms, especially if they are persistent or severe, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a particularly aggressive form of cancer that originates in the tissues of the pancreas. It, too, often spreads rapidly to nearby organs and is difficult to detect in its early stages. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include:

  • Upper abdominal pain: Pancreatic cancer can cause pain in the upper abdomen that may radiate to the back. This pain is often described as dull or achy and may worsen after eating or lying down.
  • Jaundice: Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes that occurs when the liver cannot process bilirubin properly. If other symptoms accompany jaundice, such as abdominal pain, weight loss, or nausea, it could be a sign of pancreatic cancer.

If you experience these symptoms, especially if they are persistent or severe, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a condition in which a portion of the aorta, the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body, becomes weakened and bulges outward. While many AAAs are asymptomatic and discovered incidentally during routine medical exams, a ruptured AAA can be life-threatening. Symptoms of a ruptured AAA may include sudden, severe abdominal or back pain, dizziness, or even loss of consciousness. If you experience these symptoms, especially if they are sudden and severe, seek emergency medical attention.

Treatment Options

Treatment for spinal and digestive issues will depend on your symptoms, underlying cause, and severity. Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that addresses your needs and works for you. Treatment options may include:

  • Physio or physical therapy: Physio or physical therapy can help improve strength, flexibility, and mobility, reducing pain and improving function.

  • Pain management: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, and pain relievers may be prescribed to alleviate pain and inflammation.

  • Lifestyle changes: Changing your diet, exercise routine, and posture can help alleviate symptoms and improve overall spinal and digestive health.

  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to address underlying spinal issues such as herniated discs or spinal stenosis.

When to speak to your doctor

If you experience severe or persistent back pain and digestive issues, it is essential to seek medical attention for proper evaluation. Your healthcare provider can perform a thorough examination, order diagnostic tests such as imaging studies or blood tests, and develop a personalised treatment plan based on your needs. If you are experiencing back pain and digestive issues, speaking to a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan is important. They can also guide you in managing your symptoms and improving your overall spinal and digestive health.

Remember, spinal issues can affect digestion, but not all digestive issues are caused by spinal problems. If you experience symptoms such as bloating, gas, or constipation, it is worth discussing this with your healthcare provider to determine the root cause and appropriate treatment options. Don't let spinal issues compromise your digestive health. Take the first step towards relief by speaking to your healthcare professional today.

For more information on managing back pain and related issues, explore our relevant back pain articles, and consider checking out our disc herniation products for additional support.

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Mohommed Essop-Adam
Reviewed by Mohommed Essop-Adam
Reviewed on 30.10.2023
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