When back pain and bloating occur, it's best for the sufferer to first rule out common digestive problems. Digestive issues are the most likely reason for bloating, and back pain may accompany this symptom with problems such as a bladder or urinary tract infection (UTI) or a kidney infection. Other digestive problems which include pain, bloating, and possibly upset stomach include gallstones, a low-functioning gallbladder, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or even food allergies. Often a doctor will rule out food allergies and bladder infection before moving on to more extensive testing that includes scans, blood work, and using a scope to examine the inside of the stomach.
After eliminating the possibility of a bladder or kidney infection, the latter having back pain as its most common symptom, a person should determine whether or not she has a food allergy. Blood work and allergy tests can show common allergies and will indicate if the person has a virus or other ailment that is affecting her body. If these tests do not give an indication of the problem and an adjustment in diet does not help, the patient should consider a problem with the digestive tract as a possible cause. She should keep a journal of what she eats during the day and when she feels bloated or experiences pain. She should also consider the possibility that the back pain may be unrelated to the bloating.
Digestive orders that cause back pain involve the kidneys or the gallbladder. Gallstones or a gallbladder functioning improperly often cause severe pain in the right side under the rib cage though it can also manifest across the back and focus in the center. An ultrasound can show gallstones, but if none are present, the doctor may request a HIDA (hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid) scan to measure gallbladder function. If the function is below 30% to 40%, the doctor may recommend the gallbladder be surgically removed.
Other possible digestive disorders include irritable bowel syndrome. IBS can cause back pain and bloating along with constipation, diarrhea, upset stomach, and even increased anxiety in certain individuals. Back pain is not the most common symptom for IBS, but symptoms vary widely among patients. IBS may also form after gallbladder surgery or as a result of another disease or problem with the digestive tract. Diagnosis by a doctor is necessary to ensure the pain and bloating aren’t signs of a more serious illness that requires immediate treatment or surgery.
Back pain and bloating may also occur during pregnancy and a woman should consult her doctor on what symptoms are normal. If the person is not pregnant and does not have any of the above mentioned problems, she should see a specialist for either her stomach, her back, or both. A GI (gastrointestinal) doctor can diagnose stomach problems and determine if the pain and bloating are caused by the same medical issue. In rare causes, the signs may point to a serious medical ailment like cancer and for this reason a patient should always be persistent with getting her symptoms properly examined, diagnosed, and treated.
For patients with IBS or who have yet to find a cause for the back pain and bloating, a doctor may prescribe medication to help calm the upset stomach and a muscle relaxant or pain killer for the back pain. Over-the-counter medicines are available for different digestive symptoms such as general IBS, gas, or upset stomach. Patients may experience relief from herbal remedies such as peppermint oil capsules, which aim to relax the stomach and prevent bloating, but should consult a doctor first, as the claims made by these herbal remedies have not been tested or verified by the Food and Drug Administration.