Pain in the back and abdomen: what are its causes?

Pain in the back and abdomen usually indicates an inflammatory and irritating process of the tissues in the area. Fortunately, prompt treatment determines a better quality of life.

Last update: December 24, 2021

Pain in the back and abdomen can be caused by a wide variety of conditions. It usually indicates that something is wrong with the underlying soft tissues, muscles, and organs. Here are some of the most common causes.

Discomfort in the upper or lower back tends to be caused by inflammatory processes. Similarly, spinal wear disorders, as well as poor posture when sitting and sleeping, can cause back pain. In addition, kidney and respiratory diseases also cause discomfort at this level.

However, when back pain is associated with discomfort in the abdomen, visceral affections should be suspected. In most cases, it is accompanied by other symptoms that facilitate the diagnosis.

Causes of pain in the back and abdomen

Back pain that radiates to the abdomen can start suddenly or progressively, according to the severity of the disorder. Structures affected may include the kidneys, intestine, spine, pancreas, and gallbladder. In addition, pregnancy can also cause discomfort at this level.

1. Kidney stones

Kidney stones are also called nephrolithiasis or nephrolithiasis. These are small stones or crystals made up of salts and minerals that are deposited inside the kidneys or urinary tract. They do not generate symptoms until their descent begins.

These stones can block the passage of urine from the kidney to the ureters, increasing kidney pressure and causing pain in the lower back and on the sides of the abdomen. In the same way, they can generate very powerful pain as they descend and injure the interior of the urinary tract.

Studies describe renal lithiasis as a severe, unilateral colic that begins in the lower back and continues through the abdomen, the inner thigh and genitals. Similarly, the person may have difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, and increased urinary frequency.

If this disease is suspected, medical attention should be sought immediately. Treatment is based on the use of drugs to destroy and remove the stone, and even surgical removal in severe lithiasis.

Stones are stones of different sizes that lodge inside organs.

2. Intestinal gases

Gases are normal products of intestinal metabolism. However, its excessive production and accumulation can cause discomfort.

The pain is usually diffuse and presents as throbbing and cramping in the abdomen or back. In addition, affected people may also have flatulence, nausea, retching, heartburn and indigestion.

In most cases, the discomfort goes away after a couple of hours. Similarly, it is advisable to prepare light meals, eat fruits and drink plenty of water. If the discomfort does not disappear or increases its intensity, you should consult a health professional.

3. Arthrosic conditions in the spine

Degeneration of the spine often causes ongoing pain in the back, irradiated to the sides of the abdomen. Spondyloarthrosis or osteoarthritis of the spine is the main cause of this discomfort. The condition can be the result of an inherited disorder, menopause, or aging.

Similarly, poor posture when sitting, walking, and sleeping can also be responsible for back pain. In these cases, the vertebrae adopt abnormal positions that damage their structure and degenerate neighboring tissues. The affected person usually complains of pain in the neck and back.

Spinal problems should be evaluated by an orthopedic doctor or a traumatologist. An X-ray is usually ordered to identify the cause of the discomfort. The therapeutic plan includes the use of anti-inflammatory and analgesic medications, as well as physiotherapy sessions.

4. Vertebral fractures

In most cases, vertebral body fractures occur after trauma from a road accident or fall from a height. Similarly, people with osteoporosis or bone cancer are more susceptible to spinal fractures.

The discomfort is usually continuous, intense and disabling at the level of the back. In this sense, the affected person may report a very strong pain that crosses from the back to the abdomen. Also, it is not relieved by rest or common pain relievers.

If a fracture is suspected, urgent medical attention should be sought. Treatment usually includes a surgical approach and external means to realign and fix the vertebral bodies. Recovery is slow.

5. Intestinal diseases

Irritant and inflammatory bowel disorders are responsible for producing diffuse abdominal discomfort. Similarly, diseases of the large intestine can cause pain in the sides of the abdomen and in the back. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is one of the most common causes.

Abdominal discomfort is accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, heartburn, reflux, constipation, or diarrhea. Studies affirm that in more than 50% of IBD cases the pain subsides after defecation.

Gastroenterology specialists are trained to identify and treat these types of problems. The treatment plan usually includes changes in diet and the use of medications to relieve symptoms.

6. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas with the consequent alteration of its operation. This can be acute and disappears after a couple of days, or chronic.

In people with pancreatitis, the pain begins in the upper abdomen and radiates in a belt down the sides to the back. In most cases it is possible to show nausea, vomiting, indigestion and fat in the stool due to the decrease in pancreatic enzymes.

As usual, acute pancreatitis usually subsides within a week of starting treatment. However, the chronic form involves irreversible damage to the pancreas and requires lifelong palliative care.

Inflammation of the pancreas is serious. In its acute form, it usually requires hospitalization in intensive care.

8. Gallbladder problems

Cholecystitis is inflammation of the gallbladder and, in most cases, it is caused by the presence of gallstones. The pain usually appears in the upper abdomen and spreads to the back and right shoulder. It presents as a colic or cramp that increases in intensity with the ingestion.

Similarly, abdominal discomfort is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fever, and bloating. The diagnosis is based on clinical findings and is confirmed by ultrasound and blood tests. Surgical removal of gallstones is usually the treatment.

When to seek medical attention for pain in the back and abdomen?

Pain in the back and abdomen can be the result of a wide variety of diseases. However, most of the responsible conditions can be solved with medical treatment. In this sense, early assistance with a healthcare professional determines a faster recovery.

Likewise, it is vital to seek urgent care if the pain is disabling, escalates, and persists for several days. On the other hand, discomfort after an accident must be assessed immediately. Warning signs include shortness of breath, tingling in the extremities, and loss of consciousness.

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