Picture this: you're slouched over your desk when you start to feel a strange pain shoot across your back out of nowhere. Unfortunately, the burning sensation is one you recognize. You're no stranger to acid reflux, and the radiating pain feels a lot like heartburn.
You straighten guiltily and wonder, "Was that from my bad posture, or can GERD cause back pain?"
If this sounds familiar, you're far from alone in thinking this.
Though back pain isn't a typical symptom for people who suffer from GERD, the two conditions share more links than you'd expect. Whether you've experienced back pain in the past or this is the first time you've noticed it, you'll want to pin down the root cause as soon as possible.
If you're wondering what's behind your back pain and how to treat it, here's what you should know.
Can GERD Cause Back Pain?
The answer is yes, but the details are more complicated than you might think.
If you're suffering from GERD, you're dealing with chronic acid reflux. This happens when your sphincter does not contract, allowing acids to flow out.
These acids can cause pain, and they can also damage the tissues of your chest. This is why most patients associate GERD with chest pain. However, GERD symptoms can also extend to the back, though this is less common.
If this is the case with your pain, you may find your GERD-related back pain only happens when you eat certain foods. You may also notice a sour taste in your mouth around the time you notice your back pain.
Back pain related to GERD may occur anywhere on the back, though it often happens toward the mid to upper back. In some cases, however, the pain can radiate down to the lower back as well.
If you are unsure whether GERD is causing your back pain, don't make assumptions. Always see a doctor for a diagnosis.
Can Existing Back Pain Affect Your GERD?
If you experience chronic back pain, it's important to keep in mind your back pain and GERD may share additional connections.
Even if your back pain comes and goes, you likely take NSAIDs to get relief from it. NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can help minimize back pain. Examples of these drugs include over-the-counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen.
Research suggests certain pain relief medications may cause or worsen GERD symptoms. This is not the case for all patients, but you should talk to your doctor if you think your condition is getting worse. They may be able to prescribe alternative painkillers that won't affect your GERD.
Chronic back pain is stressful. This condition can be difficult to address, and it can impact your day-to-day function. Some people even find it harder to do things like basic chores or activities.
Unfortunately, this can become a feedback loop. Back pain causes stress, and stress can cause back pain in turn.
Worse, research suggests stress can also cause GERD in some patients. Even if you're undergoing GERD treatment, stress from existing back pain can worsen your symptoms.
Shared Risk Factors
Back pain and GERD share several risk factors that can cause or complicate the conditions.
Carrying excess weight, for example, can put you at greater risk of developing both conditions. The same is true of smoking. Poor posture can trigger acid reflux by putting pressure on the abdomen, and it can also strain the muscles and joints of the back and neck, causing lingering pain.
GERD Treatment Options
If you only experience back pain after eating, or if you always notice acid reflux alongside your back pain, treating GERD may be enough to keep your back pain at bay.
Adjusting your habits can often help minimize your risk of GERD.
Start by switching to a GERD-friendly diet. Stay away from inflammatory foods, including processed snacks and greasy meals. Spicy ingredients may also trigger GERD.
Supplementing your diet with natural remedies may help you avoid pain. Probiotics can help as well.
Research also suggests smaller, more frequent meals may be helpful. This works because larger meals can apply excess pressure on the valve between the esophagus and stomach.
Always avoid eating meals within a few hours of going to bed. Reclining after a meal makes it easier for your stomach acid to flow up through the esophagus.
Managing your weight, posture, and stress levels can also help you reduce your GERD symptoms.
If lifestyle changes alone aren't enough to address your GERD and the related back pain, medication might help.
For mild to moderate GERD, antacids or H2 blockers may help stop heartburn. Natural alternatives like GerdLi can also reduce the most common symptoms of acid reflux.
For more severe GERD, options like protein pump inhibitors (PPIs) or prokinetics may bring relief.
Back Pain Treatment Options
If you experience chronic back pain that's unrelated to your acid reflux, whether or not GERD has worsened this condition, your treatment options may be more complex. Back pain can spring from a wide range of causes, which makes it trickier to treat. Always talk to your doctor for specifics on your back pain options.
In general, many patients find relief from physical therapy, which strengthens the muscles of the back. Other patients may need prescription medications, though you should avoid NSAIDs where possible to minimize your GERD symptoms. In some cases, invasive procedures may be the only way to address the root cause of your pain.
For both back pain and GERD, addressing your stress and getting support can help. Consider seeking cognitive behavioral therapy for pain management or joining a support group that can help you navigate your options.
Get Relief for Your GERD-Related Back Pain
No one should have to struggle with GERD or its related pain alone. Now that you've stopped wondering "Can GERD cause back pain?" it's time to start seeking the treatment you need!
That's where GerdLi comes in. Our all-natural gut health solution uses D-limonene sourced from citrus fruits to reduce common symptoms of acid reflux. Shop our products today to start getting relief.