Ever heard that left shoulder or arm pain could be the only symptom a person is having a heart attack? If you have both chronic lower back pain and indigestion, then you may have thought that the two are not connected, but they are. They are connected in a similar way that left shoulder pain and a heart attack are.
Lower back pain and digestive problems are issues for many people. This combination can be remedied by first understanding the connection between the two, and secondly finding a doctor who uses a whole body systems approach to pain treatment.
Basic anatomy teaches us that our spinal cord is a system of nerves that sends messages to our brain and connects to nearly every part of our body. The nerves from our spinal cord connects to both muscles and organs. We could not blink an eye, digest our food, or hug one another without the nervous system sending a message to the brain that allows us to function in these ways.
Back pain and indigestion are connected because the nerves that go to and from the organs of the digestive system also link to specific muscles and ligaments that stabilize the back and neck. When you are experiencing stress in one of your digestive organs, that organ will send a message back to the spinal cord via the same nerve that goes to a corresponding spinal muscle. As a result, the corresponding muscle will become tense, contracted and painful.
For example, when the bowel is stressed from constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may experience lower back pain and indigestion together. Hence, the cause of your pain may originate from your bowel even though you may feel the pain in your back.
This phenomenon is termed "referred pain" because the stress on the digestive organs refers pain to the muscles in the lower back. About a third of the people I see in my practice who are experiencing chronic low back pain have back pain because their kidneys are stressed from trying to expel the waste products associated with undigested food. Thus, lower back pain is not always caused by a misaligned vertebrae or disc problem as it's often presumed!
Only treating the back pain without also treating the deeper digestive cause will result in the back pain returning, or never going away. Therefore, it is important to consider your back pain may have a deeper source than just in the back where you feel it most.
Another example of referred pain is when people experience frequent pain between the shoulder blades. Pain between the shoulder blades could actually be coming from the esophagus, stomach, gallbladder, small intestine or liver. Just ask anyone who has had a gallbladder attack to verify this for you.
When we have a health problem, we tend to focus on the symptoms. We may be focusing our attention on our stomach cramps or back pain only. While our symptoms may point to one issue, our bodies may be trying to tell us something different. The key to lasting treatment is to get to the source of the pain - which may be coming from an organ or system that is in need of rest and nutrition to heal.
Unfortunately, the established medical approach tends to view our bodies as separate parts. Specialists give medications that have side effects that can harm the organs and systems that other specialists treat. For example, you may see a specialist about your back pain. He or she may prescribe a medication that could irritate your stomach, create ulcers, constipate you, and/or damage the kidneys or liver.
If we fail to approach the body as a whole, we disrupt it’s own natural regulation processes. So, what may be “good” for relieving back pain may not be good for the stomach, liver, and kidneys. An integrated approach, on the other hand, that uses a whole body’s systems perspective can treat many conditions without the side effects of medications and may be the better choice for a person who has the twin issue of back pain and indigestion.
The approach we use at the Digestion Relief Center uses a whole body health systems method that looks for the cause. First, we restore the body’s ability to assimilate and eliminate (i.e. digest your food) properly. Next, we use a non-invasive neurological approach that reestablishes communication circuits between the nerves, organs, and brain to restore normal function. Lastly, we will adjust the musculoskeletal system as needed.