Why Can We Get Back Pain Due to Gases?

The accumulation of flatulence can cause back pain. Let's look at the reasons according to scientists.
Why Can We Get Back Pain Due to Gases?

Last update: 16 April, 2023

Most of the time gas is just a minor inconvenience. On average, a healthy person breaks wind between 14 and 25 times a day, which totals 700 milliliters. In some contexts, this can trigger larger problems, which are difficult for patients to associate. Today we’ll talk about one of them: back pain due to gases.

When you think about back pain and gas, you may well think that there can’t be any relationship. However , this is a relatively common experience. When the volume of flatulence ejected is greater than normal, and when it’s accompanied by other symptoms such as swelling then we can get back pain. Let’s see what the connection is and what may be causing the increased flatus.

What causes gas and bloating?

Back pain due to gas in lactose intolerance.
People with lactose intolerance develop flatulence, abdominal pain, and diarrhea upon exposure to dairy products.

Flatulence is mainly made up of gases such as nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane. Most of them – up to 80% – are a byproduct of bacterial fermentation in the large intestine. As the experts point out, the increase in gas production together with bloating is due to six main factors:

  • Mechanical obstructions: Such as colonic obstruction, gastric outlet obstruction, small bowel obstruction, and superior mesenteric artery syndrome. Any of these causes an accumulation of gases that leads to bloating.
  • Carbohydrate intolerance: Among these we point out intolerance to poorly absorbed sugars, lactase deficiency, intolerance to complex carbohydrates and fiber, and sucrase-isomaltase deficiency.
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: As noted above, most flatulence is a byproduct of bacterial fermentation. Thus, immunodeficiency, small bowel stasis, hypochlorhydria, and irritable bowel syndrome may be behind it. Elderly patients and those with coloenteric fistulas may develop such an overgrowth.
  • Dysmotility syndromes: Such as rapid gastric emptying, slow transit constipation, acute colonic pseudo-obstruction, gastroparesis, and acute adynamic ileus. Intestinal motor dysfunction causes gas symptoms independent of bacterial processes.
  • Functional intestinal disorders: Among which we can highlight irritable bowel syndrome, functional dyspepsia, and functional bloating.
  • Miscellaneous causes: These include the intake of some medications, endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism, gastric bladder syndrome, aerophagia, and many others.

As you can see, the causes of increased gas production are very varied. Depending on them, parallel symptoms will manifest, such as constipation, diarrhea, swelling, and the aforementioned back pain. Now that you know some catalysts, let’s see the reason for back pain due to gases.

Back pain due to gases

Back pain due to gases is common
Excessive abdominal distension due to gas can cause the appearance of pain in various parts of the upper body.

A paper published in the Iranian Journal of Public Health in 2013 proposed that some types of pain in the axial line of the body can be explained by the accumulation of flatulence. This relationship isn’t new, and it has been pointed out for centuries as a possible explanation for back pain without an apparent cause.

Depending on the place where the gases accumulate, their manifestation can be confused with other conditions.

For example, as Johns Hopkins Medicine points out, when gas builds up in the left side of the colon, pain can be mistaken for heart disease. When it accumulates on the right side it can be confused with gallstones or appendicitis. So, it isn’t surprising that the distribution of gas in a certain area can cause pain in the lower and middle back.

A study published in The Clinical Journal of Pain in 2008 found that back pain is a very common symptom of gastrointestinal problems. Those who suffer from more than two symptoms of a gastrointestinal nature often experience pain in this part of the body. Among the causes indicated by the experts, the following stand out:

  • Referred pain through viscerosomatic convergence
  • Increased spinal load when exerting force during bowel movements.
  • Reduced support of abdominal contents due to impaired function of the abdominal muscles.

On the other hand, we know that urogenital irritation and piriformis syndrome, in conjunction with other abdominal and urogenital diseases, can cause back pain and symptoms similar to those of sciatica. Similarly, experts have suggested that alterations in the intestinal microbiota can cause back pain in overweight and obese people.

Although it’s true that back pain can be a consequence of gas and other gastrointestinal problems, sometimes it points to other factors. Stress, hormonal changes, back injuries, lack of exercise, and age can be behind it. If the problem persists, don’t hesitate to seek medical assistance.

  • Abbassian A, Minaee B, Nikbakht Nasrabadi A, Rostamian A, Shirzad M. Gas as a cause of spinal pains: a possible new syndrome. Iran J Public Health. 2013;42(1):110-2.
  • Dekker Nitert M, Mousa A, Barrett HL, Naderpoor N, de Courten B. Altered Gut Microbiota Composition Is Associated With Back Pain in Overweight and Obese Individuals. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2020 Sep 2;11:605.
  • Hasler WL. Gas and Bloating. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2006 Sep;2(9):654-662.
  • Paulson JD. Abdominal and urogenital diseases can often be the cause of lower back pain and sciatic-like symptoms. Pain Manag. 2012 May;2(3):279-94.
  • Smith MD, Russell A, Hodges PW. How common is back pain in women with gastrointestinal problems? Clin J Pain. 2008 Mar-Apr;24(3):199-203.
  • Tomlin J, Lowis C, Read NW. Investigation of normal flatus production in healthy volunteers. Gut. 1991 Jun;32(6):665-9.

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