Gut Inflammation & Lower Back Pain: The Missing Link

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Whether you’ve got a specific diagnosis of conditions such as Chrons Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome or some more vague issue relating to poor health or inflammation in your digestive system, people often wonder why it can make lower back pain worse. Today we’ll cover a simple but often overlooked connection between the health of your digestive system and the presence and worsening of lower back pain.

The majority of lower back pain originates in one region

Because of the activities of modern life it has become apparent that the root cause of the majority of lower back pain stems from issues in the lower lumbar spine, this region is the L4-L5 and L5-S1 segments of the lumbar spine. Commonly this will give rise to all manner of symptoms including aching or throbbing in the “small of the back”, symptoms that appear in the gluteal or buttock region a little lower down, as well as the classic symptoms of sciatica where pain, numbness or tingling can refer into the leg.

Repetitive strain is often a factor, wearing down the health of these lower lumbar segments, including the discs, structures which provide cushioning between each of the bones in your back and also create space for the nerves to exit the spine. When damaged, inflammation builds up in this area giving rise to some or all of the symptoms discussed. This can be made more painful or intense with particular movements, commonly with patients finding that their low back pain comes and goes, over time, with episodes becoming more frequent, longer lasting and more intense. 

The one movement we do that makes lower back injuries worse

Too many are unaware that the lower back should have a nice smooth backward bending curve in it that supports healthy load bearing. We spend so much of our days, slouched, flattening our back into the chairs we’re sat in, only to do exercises like pilates or yoga thinking that they’ve helping, but actually they do more flattening of the lower back with movements like pelvic tucks or tilts, and child’s pose. Then commonly, when the back pain gets too intense we seek out some physiotherapy for guidance, only to be given more “stretches for the back” that flatten our spine even more, movements like knee hugs! 

What do all these movements have in common, they’re eliminating that natural curve in our back, straining an injured lower lumbar spine more – particularly at L4-L5 and L5-S1. Its flexion of the lumbar spine and when you have an injury to your lower back it is to be avoided.

So why is your back pain worse when you have a gut flare up?

There are often extravagant ideas about the links between gut inflammation, disease and discomfort and lower back pain or sciatica. Granted if your gut is inflamed, or you have other inflammatory conditions running rampant through the body, that could suggest your body perhaps “manages inflammation” poorly, we certainly wouldn’t dispute any links made there. However, in this day and age, we sometimes seem to have a yearning to make certain things more complex than they need to be. 

A simple factor that is certainly present in the case of any form of gut issue is the mechanics. Think about the last time you were struggling with a gut flare up of IBS, or Chrons, or even minor food poisoning. Where did you find yourself? Curled over in pain, frequent visits to the toilet, replicating that same movement we discussed earlier, often with muscular force being exerted as you could expect when in pain.

Gut issues stopping your lower back pain resolving

There is no doubt in my mind about the fact that those with gut issues are wrestling with a challenging adversary when it comes to recovering from lower back pain. The mechanics of poor gut health is a challenge, but so many are simply unaware of this link. Hopefully if you’re someone that has struggled with both poor gut health, and lower back pain or sciatica, you now have an improved awareness of this simple relationship. Do your best while you’re having flare ups of your gut condition, it can be tremendously challenging, but know that it is normal to feel as though the back is aggravated afterwards.

So long as you’re doing the right sort of rehabilitation work for your lower back pain or sciatica, gut flare ups can be a managed inconvenience that you can work around on your way to resolving and recovering from lower back pain.

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