When back pain happens with nausea, it’s usually a sign that either something is pressing against both the back and the stomach or that something is wrong with the nerve synapses running up and down the spine. The spine, which anchors the back, houses many of the most important parts of the central nervous system. Injuries can impact how the brain processes and interprets most aspects of daily life, which can often cause both pain and queasiness. Organ swelling and inflammation can also be the root of the connection. The space between the lower back and stomach is relatively small in most people, and when things go wrong pressure can be put on both places. This is commonly due disease, infection, or injury, but can also happen due to stress, various cancers, or, in women, pregnancy and menstrual pain. A number of different medical conditions can cause these symptoms together, and people who have prolonged pain or who can’t figure out what is causing their discomfort should usually seek the help of a qualified healthcare professional.
Injuries to the spine are one of the most serious connections between back pain and nausea. Herniated discs happen when one of the discs or “plates” that make up the stacked spine bulges out and push against nerve roots. This tends to be very painful, and when pain is very acute a person can feel sick or queasy as a side effect. Other back pain, whether from pulled muscles or damaged vertebrae, can lead to similar effects; actually breaking the back, usually because of a fall or traumatic accident, will do the same in most cases.
The connection isn’t always based on sheer pain, though. When spinal injuries damage more than just bone, muscles, and ligaments and actually sever or twist nerves, nausea can be a triggered response from the brain. Nerves are basically information highways for signals and sensations that run from the brain to every part of the body, and nearly all of them pass through the spine at some point. A back injury that compromises a nerve connected to the stomach or, more commonly, the brain’s center regulating balance, a person can feel both back pain from the injury and nausea from the nerve signal misfires.
Another common connection has to do with organ inflammation or swelling, which can put pressure on both the stomach and the lower back. Internal injuries and tissue damage are some of the primary causes, but abnormal growths can also cause organs to shift, swell, and press against each other. Cancer falls into this category, but is by no means the only possibility; gallstones, benign tumors, and water-filled cysts may also be to blame, and are all readily treatable. None is normal, though, and most medical experts recommend getting help for pain accompanied by nausea that doesn’t go away on its own, that is accompanied by fever or tenderness, or that seems to get worse as time passes.
Stress and Psychosomatic Connections
Sometimes internal swelling is the result of extreme stress or anxiety. People have been studying the connection between emotional well-being and physical health for some time, and while there are a lot of unknowns most experts agree that extreme mental stress can actually lead to physical strain. A person usually has to have feelings of stress or worry for a long time before physical conditions start appearing, but a lot of this depends on the person. Organ swelling, stomach ulcers, and blood vessel inflammation can all contribute to increased pressure in the abdominal region, which in many cases leads to back pain and nausea.
A number of infections may also be responsible, particularly spinal meningitis. Meningitis is a potentially serious condition involving inflammation and erosion of the cell membranes that surround the spine. It can be caused by either virus or bacteria, and pain and nausea are usually only two of many more troubling symptoms like fever, vomiting, and disorientation. A number of infections can also impact the internal organs — appendicitis is a very common example — but these also tend to be very serious, and should be addressed right away in most cases to prevent serious and illness or even death.
Menstruation and Pregnancy
Women often complain of nausea together with back pain while they are menstruating, likely because of intense uterine cramping. When the female reproductive organs swell and contract, they put pressure on the surrounding areas and pain often radiates outward to the lower back. The same thing happens during pregnancy, and is often aggravated by the pressure the growing baby puts on the stomach; weight gain can also strain the back as the woman struggles to redistribute her center of balance.
Common Treatments and Cures
There is no universal way to treat back pain that happens alongside nausea since there is no single cause, but many people find that applying hot pads, drinking plenty of fluids, and getting adequate rest can help calm the symptoms. Pain that doesn’t go away or that seems to get worse may indicate a more serious problem, though, and medical experts usually recommend that people get a professional evaluation in these cases. Doctors can often bring relief with anti-inflammatory medications; surgery or more invasive corrective procedures are sometimes required if the situation is really serious.