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When you think of back pain, you probably think of lifting something that’s too heavy or sitting awkwardly for too long, right? These can certainly be causes, but your lower back is actually where some of your most crucial organs are found. These can also be the root of your pain.
Irritated, infected, or inflamed organs in your abdominal, pelvic, and torso areas can all lead to lower back pain. People who suffer from back pain because of an organ tend to feel the pain in one particular side of their back, closest to where the organ is located.
Like most types of back pain, non-surgical treatments are available for organ-induced back pain. But before finding the right course of action, it’s important to know what organs cause back pain. Below, we’ve listed the organs that can have the biggest impact on your back.
Why organs can cause lower back pain
Organs react to changes in your body. If there is a foreign substance, an injury, or an unexpected mutation, your organs can be impacted. With these changes, it’s normal for them to become inflamed or for growths and cysts to form, altering the physical space that the organ takes up.
Think of your organs like a jigsaw puzzle: each piece has its designated location that fits precisely with the other organs so they may function properly. If one piece is distorted and you force it into the picture anyway, the pieces closest to it sit awkwardly and can become damaged. It’s the same with your organs and back.
That said, back pain is not always exclusively due to organs, it can also be caused by bones, ligaments, and tendons in the back. To determine the difference, we recommend keeping note of your symptoms and where the pain is centered and sharing this information with your doctor.
Appendix back pain
Your appendix sits in the lower abdomen on the right side of the body. If it becomes inflamed or swollen (a condition known as “appendicitis”), it can send severe pain through the abdomen and across the lower back. In the United States, one in twenty people will get appendicitis at some point during their lives. Although common, an inflamed appendix is serious and must be removed with surgery.
Back pain is one of the first symptoms of appendicitis. The pain starts in the lower right of the stomach and continues to move lower as time passes. When this occurs, you should visit a doctor immediately.
Kidneys back pain
The kidneys remove toxins from your blood and convert the waste into urine. During this process, if the waste has too many chemical toxins that can’t be diluted in the urine, you can develop kidney stones. These hard masses are painful when they pass through the urinary tract and can cause a sharp pain in the lower back and side of your body. If the stones get stuck, they can block urine flow which makes the kidneys swell and the ureter spasm. In this scenario, the lower back and abdomen pain can be very intense.
Alternatively, a kidney infection can be the reason for back pain. Unlike back pain from the back itself, this pain is localized under the ribs and on the sides of your body. Some people have reported feeling pain in their groin, thigh, and stomach due to kidney infections. Kidney infections are very serious and require medical treatment by a doctor. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, consult your primary care doctor as soon as possible.
Pancreas back pain
The pancreas helps break down food during digestion by producing enzymes and hormones. The pancreas lies horizontally behind the stomach, and if it becomes inflamed (pancreatitis), it can stimulate a sharp pain that originates in the center of the stomach and travels along the back. People with pancreatitis often say that the pain gets more intense with time and that the sensation can be debilitating. If you’re suffering from sharp pain in your stomach, schedule a doctor appointment immediately.
Intestine back pain
Inflammation of the large intestine (where the organ becomes swollen and irritated, normally in response to an infection) or “ulcerative colitis” has been linked to back pain. The condition prompts a dull ache in the abdomen which can extend to the lower back. Other symptoms like abdominal cramps, constipation, and rectal pain are a sign of ulcerative colitis, too. If you’re experiencing symptoms like these, schedule a consultation with your doctor for a possible diagnosis.
Stomach back pain
The stomach is a sensitive organ and any disruption to it can result in back pain. Gas is a surprisingly common cause of back pain because it causes bloating in the stomach and abdominal region, making them feel sore and sending pain radiating to the back. Stomach viruses can have the same effect.
Stress equally takes its toll on the stomach, which again, can spark back pain. Intense stress can trigger discomfort in the stomach or cause people to unknowingly tense their stomach muscles beyond what is normal. These actions lead to bloating and subsequent back pain. The first step in treating stomach back pain is to identify the cause. If stress is causing pain, consider making an appointment with a psychiatrist or therapist to improve your ability to manage stress. You should also visit your doctor to rule out other causes.
Colon back pain
The colon is the longest part of your large intestine. If it gets blocked, infected, or a tumor grows there, the colon presses on the spinal cord, resulting in back pain. There’s also the possibility that dry stool gets lodged in the colon (referred to as “fecal impaction” but better known as constipation) and puts pressure on the organ, sending pain throughout the back and abdomen.
Ovary back pain
Ovarian cysts are firm or fluid-filled growths on one or both of the ovaries. Very large cysts can push on other organs and tissues and cause lower back pain. Large cysts are rare, but there have been cases of cysts growing up to 30 centimeters (12 inches) in diameter. Whether the back pain is felt on the left or right side depends on which ovary the cyst has formed on. If you’re experiencing pain because of a cyst, consult with your doctor.
Uterus back pain
The uterus can stimulate back pain if a woman, or those assigned female at birth, has large fibroids or a condition like adenomyosis.
Large fibroids can grow so much that they push on bones in the back called vertebral bodies and compress nerves close to the vertebral bodies or within the pelvis. The larger the fibroid, the more severe the back pain is likely to be, and similar to ovarian cysts, the affected side of the back depends on what side of the uterus the fibroid grows.
Adenomyosis is when the inner lining of the uterus (called the endometrium) grows into the muscular wall of the uterus. When the endometrium invades the muscle wall of the uterus, the tissue continues to grow, break down, and bleed. However, once it stretches into the muscle layer of the uterus it can cause an enlarged uterus that puts pressure on the back and legs, sparking pain in those areas.
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