The combination of abdominal and back pain usually starts with pain in the abdomen. The pain then gradually or rapidly spreads to the back. The most likely cause of such pain is often not difficult to diagnose if the nature, timing, severity, character, as well as the pattern and direction of spread is well noted.
Common causes of pain in the abdomen and back include menstrual pain, pain from ovarian cyst, gall bladder diseases, gallstones, prostatitis, endometriosis and leaking or ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Are you suffering with abdominal and back pain? Abdominal or stomach pain that spreads through to the back could be a sign of a condition like stomach ulcer, pancreatitis or even cystitis, depending on the exact spot from where the pain starts.
Abdominal and back pain occurring together is often a symptom of a:
There are other rarer causes of abdominal pain spreading to the back, or originating in the back and can be felt in the abdomen.
The common causes of abdominal pain that radiates or spreads to the back include:
* The asterisked causes are reasonably rare and they should not be considered as the first possible cause of an abdominal and back pain occurring together. There are also other causes of abdominal and lower back pain in pregnancy and a few related to pain arising from the womb.
Do you suffer with abdominal pain within minutes of eating or even up to an hour after meals? Does the pain spread through the centre of your upper abdomen to your back between the two shoulder blades? Or is yours the type of pain that starts in the right upper abdomen and spreads through the side and goes to the upper back under your right scapular bone?
If you suffer from any of the symptoms above, the following conditions may be the reasons why you have abdominal and back pain after eating:
Biliary colic is colic or pain due to the contraction of the gallbladder. The gall bladder is a pear shaped sac that lies just under the surface of the liver, about a hands length below your right breast.
This sac is where bile (that green bitter liquid you sometimes see in vomit) is stored. Bile is very important as it helps us digest our food properly. The liver produces bile and stores it in this sac. When we eat, especially rich foods or food rich in fat, the gallbladder contracts to release bile to help emulsify the fat in our food and to aid digestion of vital nutrients for our body.
Sometimes, the salts that make up the bile crystallize and form small stones and this is what is referred to as gallstones. The pain of biliary colic could arise from:
The symptoms of biliary colic include:
With biliary colic the pain typically lasts for a few hours but could continue up to three days in some people. If there is an associated infection of the gallbladder, the sufferer may become hot and cold (feverish) with yellow discoloration of the white part of the eyes (jaundice). This is called cholecystitis and it is a medical emergency.
Treatment of biliary colic is with the use of strong pain killers, like a combination of Paracetamol or acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Diclofenac (Volterol). The two are safe to take together, provided you do not suffer with asthma or stomach ulcer. Always check with your doctor before taking medicines..
If there is evidence of infection (cholecystitis), acute admission into the hospital would be required and treatment with intravenous antibiotics and pain killers. In some cases an emergency operation may become necessary.
The phrase peptic ulcer refers to any ulcer resulting from acid irritation to part of the bowel leading to the formation of holes or ulcer pits like those shown in the diagram to the right.
Peptic ulcers commonly occur in the stomach and duodenum (the first part of your small intestine just after the stomach). Peptic ulcers can also be found in the jejunum, ileum and merkels diverticulum (these are all parts of the small intestine).
A combination of excessive acid production, stress, and sometimes other factors like infection of the stomach by a bug called helicobacter pylori or prolonged intake of pain killers like ibuprofen, aspirin or diclofenac could lead to the formation of ulcers in the stomach or intestine.
Where there is an existing peptic ulcer, eating leads to the production of acid in the stomach. This in turn brings about the irritation of the sore or raw ulcer leading to abdominal pain. This condition usually happens more in a stomach ulcer than in any other form of ulcer.
The symptoms of peptic or stomach ulcer include:
The use of antacids, like gaviscon or mix magnesia may help calm down the pain.
If you are over 50 years of age and suffer with any of these symptoms, it is very important that you get checked immediately with your doctor to exclude conditions such as stomach cancer.
Treatment after appropriate investigation including endoscopy or barium swallow would include the use of antacids and medications like ranitidine and losec or omeprazole, lansoprazole or pantoprazole.
Avoidance of spicy foods, fried foods, alcohol, smoking and stressful situations would also be advised.
The pancreas is a banana shaped organ that lies behind the stomach in the upper abdomen. It is the gland where a number of very powerful digestive enzymes are produced and stored. It is also where insulin that helps in the regulation of sugar in our body is produced.
Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. Any injury, infection, obstruction or exposure to certain types of situations can lead to pancreatitis. Gallstones and excessive alcohol consumption are very common causes of pancreatitis.
The symptoms of pancreatitis include:
Pancreatitis is a very serious illness. It can mimic gastritis, stomach or duodenal ulcers. If you suspect that you may be having pancreatitis, please seek medical attention immediately.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a life-long condition where the bowels are very sensitive to certain foods and stressful situations. It causes abdominal discomfort which gets better on going to the toilet. It is a condition three times more common in women than in men. The abdominal pain of irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is more often in the left lower abdomen.
The pain may be associated with constipation and the passage of mucus in the stool or diarrhoea. You may feel bloated in the abdomen, weary or always tired always with backache and sometimes an increase in frequency of passing urine or waking up to pass urine at night.
You could also have lower abdominal and back pain after eating with IBS.
Do you have pain in the central part of your abdomen around or just below the umbilicus? There aren't many causes of pain in the middle of the abdomen that spreads to the back. The main causes are:
This is the dilatation of the wall of the large blood vessel that brings blood from the heart into the abdomen (called the aorta). If the aorta balloons or dilates for any reason it could start to leak blood in small amount and this leads to middle or lower abdominal pain that spreads to the back.
The condition is likely in middle or elderly man or woman who have smoked in the past. The pain is often gradual or sudden and there is associated dizziness on standing. Many sufferers collapse and faint with this pain if bleeding significantly
You can read more about symptoms of ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm here.
Yes. Heart attack can start as abdominal pain! Typically, the pain is usually in the middle upper abdomen, above the umbilicus and below the breastbone.
The pain will come on suddenly which could be a small discomfort or severe ache, like a heavy load or pressure on the chest. The pain could spread up to the left arm and neck or jaw and there could be associated sweats, nausea and vomiting. The pain could last a few minutes or up to an hour or two before it goes away.
If you have a pain which is described above then seek urgent medical help. You may be having a heart attack.
Abdominal and back pain due to a kidney stone is usually straightforward to diagnose. The nature of abdominal and back pain arising from kidney stones largely depend on which part of the urinary tract the stone is located in, it's size and whether there is an associated infection or not.
The symptoms of kidney stone pain include:
The pain of kidney stones in the ureter has been described as the most severe pain ever.
Do you suffer with lower abdominal and pack pain? One of the following could be responsible:
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common cause of lower abdominal pain especially in women.
The symptoms of IBS pain include:
The symptoms are often made worse by stressful experiences and can last for months and years.
With cystitis you often feel more tired than usual, you pass urine more often and when you do, it has a bit of a stinging feeling. You also:
Until proven otherwise, you almost certainly have an urine infection or cystitis as a cause of your abdominal and lower back pain.
Ovarian cyst is a common cause of right or left lower abdominal pain that spreads to the lower back in a woman, especially between the ages of 13 and 53. The pain of ovarian cyst typically:
This is the most common cause of lower abdominal and back pain in women of child bearing age, especially in the early years of their menstrual life. Menstrual cramps cause a dull intermittent lower abdominal pain along the bikini line, that spreads to the back. It could be so severe that in some women, it disrupts their day and brings their life to a halt.
The pain is followed a few days later with a vaginal bleed. The pain tends to get better after the bleeding has gone on for a few days.
Heathline.com, What are abdominal bloating and back pain?, http://www.healthline.com/health/abdominal-bloating-and-back-pain (Accessed: September 2016)
Enkivillage, Lower Back and Stomach Pain, http://www.enkivillage.com/lower-back-and-stomach-pain.html (Accessed: September 2016)
New Heath Guide, Lower Back and Abdominal Pain, http://www.newhealthguide.org/Lower-Back-And-Abdominal-Pain.html (Accessed: September 2016)
SpineHeath.com, Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/abdominal-aortic-aneurysm (Accessed: September 2016)
Universiry of Maryland Medical Centre, http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/peptic-ulcers (Accessed: September 2016)
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