Back pain usually comes from lifting an object the wrong way or awkwardly moving the body, injuring the spinal structures or muscles. However, sometimes it could be signs/symptoms of a more serious medical condition. The back pain could be caused by:
- Kidney stones or infection
- Urinary tract infection – UTI
How to know when the root cause of back pain is from something else in the body? There are two types of pain that pain specialists look at. These are visceral pain and somatic pain. Visceral pain comes from damage or injury to the organs or organ tissues. This internal pain can radiate to the spine from conditions like:
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- Gall stones
- Kidney pain
- Urinary tract infections
Somatic pain is injury or damage to the muscles, skin, and soft tissues. It can be caused by:
- Regular wear and tear
- Sedentary lifestyle
However, visceral pain can cause somatic/bodily pain to flare up. The stress the body is going through because of the medical condition can cause inflammation.
Kidney Infections and Stones
The kidneys are located in the rear of the body toward the middle of the back. The kidneys:
- Filter waste products from the body
- Regulate bodily fluids
- Perform other vital functions.
Kidney infections and kidney stones can easily mimic a sprain or strain in the back. Infections or stones can also present with other symptoms like:
- Burning sensation when urinating.
- The pain feels like it’s higher and deeper in the back compared to musculoskeletal low back pain.
- Side and groin pain could accompany the back pain.
- The pain does not go away after shifting positions or lying down.
Urinary Tract Infection UTI
Upper urinary tract infections in the kidneys or ureters can cause back pain. Upper UTIs happen when a lower UTI in the bladder or urethra goes unnoticed or does not respond to antibiotic treatment. Infections can occur at any age, with women and older men being more susceptible. The pain usually presents in the lower back and groin area. Other possible symptoms include:
- Pain in the back, sides of the lower abdomen between the lower ribs and hips.
- Frequent urination in small amounts
- Burning during urination
- Strong urge to urinate
- Foul-smelling urine
- Cloudy urine
The pain can feel like:
- Cramping pain
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the long flat organ located in the upper abdomen behind the stomach. It assists digestion and sugar management. The American Pancreatic Association reports acute pancreatitis can make individuals feel sick with moderate to severe abdominal pain that can radiate to the back and often worsens after eating. The pain is felt in the upper to middle back. Other possible symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain that radiates to the back
- Abdominal pain after eating
- Tenderness in the abdomen
The pain can feel like a pulled muscle or joint pain that increases and decreases at first and then strengthens after eating or lying down.
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases IBD
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are inflammatory bowel diseases not to be confused with irritable bowel syndrome.
- Ulcerative colitis affects the colon.
- Inflamed intestinal areas characterize Crohn’s disease.
- Both can cause spreading back pain.
A study found 25% of individuals with IBD have chronic back pain. Other possible symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Urgent need for bowel movements
- Rectal bleeding
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
The pain can feel mild or severe, like a cramp in the lower abdomen around the low back. It can present in cycles as a flare-up, then goes away. It’s essential to read the body’s warning signs and not push through the pain or ignore it. If any back pain goes on for more than a week, consult a doctor or chiropractor for a thorough examination. A pain specialist could be recommended if there is chronic back pain from a severe medical condition. A primary doctor or specialist helps keep the medical condition in check, while a pain specialist and/or chiropractor can alleviate chronic musculoskeletal pain from inflammation, irritation, and overstimulated nerves.
Personalized Lifestyle Medicine
Personalized lifestyle medicine develops customized treatment/health plans to fit the individual. It includes:
- Research on how the body works as an integrated system.
- Combines new technology approaches in medicine.
- The relationship between nutrients and gene expression.
- Life and behavioral sciences.
Nutrigenomics testing helps individuals understand the influence of dietary components on their genes, which can help prevent the development of certain chronic diseases.
American Pancreatic Association (Pancreapedia). (2015). Pathogenesis and Treatment of Pain in Chronic Pancreatitis. https://pancreapedia.org/reviews/pathogenesis-and-treatment-of-pain-in-chronic-pancreatitis
American College of Rheumatology. (2019). The U.S. Prevalence of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Associated Axial Pain: Data from the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). https://acrabstracts.org/abstract/the-us-prevalence-of-inflammatory-bowel-disease-and-associated-axial-pain-data-from-the-national-health-nutrition-examination-survey-nhanes/
The information herein on "When Chronic Back Pain Is Actually A Medical Condition" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional.
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