Most people have experienced bloating and backaches--either separately, or simultaneously--at some point in their lives. They are fairly common symptoms that usually result from a variety of benign causes. However, bloating and back pain experienced simultaneously can also be indicative of more serious conditions that should be reported to a doctor, especially when accompanied by other symptoms.
According to a study published in the 2006 edition of the "Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology," 80 percent of patients with gallstones are asymptomatic 2. However, those in the study who fall in the remaining 20 percent experienced symptoms that mainly include dyspepsia (bloating) and pain in the abdomen and/or back (Reference 2). The bloating and pain usually occur because the gallstone is moving from the gallbladder into one of the ducts that lead out of it (Reference 4). Of the 220 patients who displayed symptoms in the Scandinavian study, nearly all of them experienced dyspepsia and pain in the abdomen and over half experienced pain in the back as well 2. Other symptoms of gallstones include sweating, vomiting or fever.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common disorder of the colon or lower bowel 6. While not life-threatening, the condition can have many uncomfortable symptoms including abdominal cramps and gas as well as constipation, diarrhea, or alternation between the two. Bloating is also a common symptom of IBS, and it can be accompanied by lower back pain in more severe cases (Reference 7). If, however, you have severe, lasting back pain and are experiencing other symptoms like weight loss, anemia or blood in the stool, see your doctor immediately as these may be signs of more serious gastrointestinal issues.
Women who experience frequent bloating coupled with back pain should be aware of other symptoms, as they may be indicators of ovarian cancer. Occasional bloating is normal for some women, but if the bloating is new or unusual, or is accompanied by other symptoms, take notice. According to a September 2008 article in the “European Journal of Cancer Care” (Reference 1) and a 2012 article in the “ISRN Obstetrics & Gynecology” journal (Reference 5), unusual bloating and back pain are among the most common symptoms reported by women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer 15. If you experience abdominal pain and fatigue along with bloating and back pain, you should see your doctor right away.
Peptic Ulcers and Pancreatitis
When bloating occurs along with back pain and other symptoms including weight loss it may signal more serious problems like peptic ulcers (Reference 8), pancreatitis (Reference 9)--or both (Reference 3). A peptic ulcer is a tear or sore in the tissue, usually in the stomach lining or the upper part of the small intestine. More than 6 million Americans suffer from peptic ulcers (Reference 8).
Pancreatitis is a rare disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. In serious cases of the disease, cysts can form on the organ, infection can develop and there can be major tissue damage or bleeding into the gland (Reference 9). In addition to sharing the symptoms of back pain and bloating, a February 2011 Article in the "World Journal of Gastroenterology" found that nearly 53 percent of patients suffering from acute pancreatitis also had peptic ulcer disease 3. (Reference 3).
- European Journal of Cancer Care: Symptoms of ovarian cancer in young patients 2 years before diagnosis, a case–control study
- Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology: Pain attacks in non-complicated and complicated gallstone disease have a characteristic pattern and are accompanied by dyspepsia in most patients: The results of a prospective study.
- World Journal of Gastroenterology: Association between acute pancreatitis and peptic ulcer disease
- Cleveland Clinic: Gallstones
- Obstetrics & Gynecology: Symptoms and Risk Factors of Ovarian Cancer: A Survey in Primary Care
- Cleveland Clinic: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: Symptoms of IBS
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Peptic Ulcers
- Cleveland Clinic: Pancreatitis
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