Back Pain and Fibroids: When Are They Related?

Dr. Eric DePopas, MD

Dr. Eric DePopas, MD

PainTheory Chief Medical Officer
Vascular & Interventional Radiologist

Table of Contents

Anyone who suffers from a health condition knows that dealing with symptoms often feels like managing another condition entirely, especially if you don’t understand why the symptoms appear and how to ease them. Likewise, it can be hard to determine if a condition is the actual cause of symptoms or if something else is triggering the sensations. 

Women or those assigned female at birth with fibroids experience a variety of symptoms, one of the most common being back pain. In fact, studies have shown that 60% of women with fibroids feel aches or discomfort in their back. Fortunately, doctors know why fibroids cause pain, how to alleviate it, and how to safely remove fibroid stimuli. Here’s everything you need to know about back pain and fibroids and how they’re connected to one another:

Can fibroids cause back pain?

Fibroids are tumors that grow on the lining of the uterus and can range in size from one mm to 20 cm in diameter. Larger fibroids can grow so much that they push on bones in the back called vertebral bodies. This can compress nerves that are close to the vertebral bodies or even within the pelvis. If either of these scenarios takes place, back pain will be the result.

If fibroids are causing back pain, it typically indicates that the person has a large fibroid. It’s important to note though, that back pain is a “bulk symptom” of fibroids, meaning that it’s related to the size of the fibroid. The larger the fibroid, the more severe the back pain is likely to be.

Fibroids and back pain symptoms

Chronic back pain has a significant impact on a person’s wellbeing. There are strong associations between chronic pain and a reduction in mental health—studies show that up to 85% of patients with chronic back pain suffer from severe depression. 

Therefore, back pain should be taken seriously, especially considering that it can limit mobility and significantly restrict daily routines. 

It is important for patients to confirm that their back pain is due to fibroids and not another condition like spinal stenosis or a herniated disc. To correctly diagnose the cause, you need to speak with a doctor and organize a physical exam and medical imaging. For example, if you have symptoms of sciatica (radiating pain down the leg) and an MRI shows a lumbar nerve root compression, the doctor can confidently say that your back pain is related to a nerve root compression, not fibroids.

What does fibroid pain feel like in the back?

Having back pain does not automatically suggest that you have fibroids. That said, if you have been diagnosed with fibroids and start experiencing back pain along with other fibroid symptoms, it’s typically a safe assumption that the two are related. 

Other fibroid symptoms include heavy periods, abdominal pain or bloating, constipation, pain during sex, and the feeling of needing to urinate regularly. 

Rarely will back pain be the only isolated symptom of a large fibroid—if they are substantial in size, they’ll likely produce other side effects.

If you have chronic back pain before being diagnosed with fibroids, the growths aren’t guaranteed to worsen the pain. If the fibroid is small, chances are that it will have no impact. If it’s large, there’s a strong possibility it could exacerbate the pain. 

Why is fibroid pain worse at night?

Some women with fibroids have reported feeling more intense back pain at night, making it difficult to sleep and generally rest. Some women experience pain that has woken them up suddenly.

It’s not uncommon for people to notice any symptom they are experiencing more strongly at night. Particularly when lying down, we tend to be more aware of our bodies and can localize areas of discomfort. During fast-paced days, we don’t notice these sensations as much due to the distractions of our day-to-day lives.  

So if you are experiencing more severe pain at night, remember this can be common with fibroids and it doesn’t likely suggest there is something more worrisome happening. 

Fibroid back pain relief

There are a number of at-home remedies that can momentarily relieve fibroid-induced back pain. 

The first is over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that reduce inflammation. Common NSAIDs are high-dose aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Midol), and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn).

Another option is applying a hot compress to the affected area of the back. Heat relaxes muscles and lowers the constriction of blood vessels, improving the blood flow and reducing discomfort. 

You may also want to explore medical treatment such as uterine fibroid embolization; a non surgical, same-day procedure that uses a type of x-ray imaging called fluoroscopy to locate the fibroids and direct small bead-like particles into the uterine arteries to block blood flow to the fibroids. This causes them to shrink considerably or disappear completely. The treatment is highly effective at reducing and removing the fibroids that cause back pain, with a success rate of 85%.

Conclusion

Back pain should always be addressed quickly and with care. We recommend seeing a doctor for the deepest insights into your condition and root cause. If fibroids are the source, take our PainTheory Uterine Fibroid Embolization quiz to see if you’re suited for UFE treatment.

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The information included in this document in no way substitutes for medical advice.

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