Connection Between Back Pain and Acid Reflux

Sep 30, 2023

Experiencing back pain after a hearty meal may indicate minor digestive issues, but the relationship between back pain and gastrointestinal reflux disease is more complex than that. Whether or not you have a heavy meal, acid reflux due to GERD will leave you with excruciating back pain. If this happens often, read along to find relief methods in such a situation.

Back Pain and GERD

At first, it might seem like your consistent back pain and acid reflux are directly linked, but the reality is a bit complex. In most cases, they are intertwined due to an underlying issue.

1. The Vagus Nerve

The vagus nerve runs from your head to your abdomen, encapsulating the heart, lungs, stomach, throat, and more. When this nerve is pinched or damaged, it can result in gastrointestinal issues, potentially leading to back pain. Other than that, excessive acid absorption in the esophagus irritates the vagus nerve, causing it to send pain signals felt in the back area.

2. Obesity

Obesity is quite common in the United States and thus impacts both back pain and acid reflux. Carrying excess weight strains the body, contributing to back pain. Similarly, weak abdominal muscles, such as the sphincter (which prevents acid from entering the esophagus), can lead to acid reflux. Overeating and a diet rich in fatty foods can also exacerbate GERD conditions.

3. Stress

If your body is in a state of consistent stress, it may contribute to severe back pain and acid reflux. Stress-induced heartburn is common, along with chronic back pain, and when you add in ongoing stress, it is a recipe for disaster.

4. NSAIDs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen alleviate back pain and stiffness to a considerable extent. However, studies suggest they may also increase the risk of acid reflux in certain individuals. While not everyone experiences this as a side effect of NSAIDs, it is a possibility worth considering if you are a habitual user.

How To Treat Acid Reflux Back Pain?

If your back pain is associated with acid reflux, several methods exist, such as using medications or even surgery.

Medications To Treat Acid Reflux Back Pain

  1. Antacids: Over-the-counter pills like Tums neutralize stomach acid to quickly relieve discomfort.
  2. Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): They come under the umbrella of prescription medications that need a practicing doctor’s sign for release. The options include Prevacid and Nexium; both reduce stomach acid production, allowing the esophagus lining to heal.
  3. H-2-Receptor Blockers: Options such as Zantac and lessen stomach acid production for up to 12 hours. They have a different working mechanism but produce the same result as others, although they work more slowly than antacids.

Severe GERD Treatment – Surgery

Those who suffer from severe acid reflux or GERD, like morbidly obese, need extensive treatment options. In such cases, anti-reflux surgery becomes a consideration.

Anti-Reflux Surgery for the Morbidly Obese

Obesity is a significant risk factor that raises GERD issues, and the incidence increases with higher body mass index (BMI). In patients with a BMI>30, laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery is more effective than fundoplication surgery. This surgery not only addresses GERD but also tackles obesity-related comorbidities.

Closing Note

The connection between back pain and acid reflux is not simple; various factors contribute to their co-occurrence. Addressing the symptoms and identifying the underlying causes is crucial for pain management. Nova Bariatrics has an exceptional team led by Dr. Mustafa H. Alibhai a board-certified general surgeon who served as Assistant Professor of Surgery at McGovern Medical School at UT Health in Houston who work diligently to deliver their best. Contact us to get your answers at (469) 639-0953 or at 1081 Kinwest Pkwy #110, Irving, TX 75063.

Dr. Mustafa H. Alibhai

Dr. Alibhai, a board-certified general surgeon, passionately leads Nova Bariatrics and General Surgery. Formerly an Assistant Professor at McGovern Medical School, he’s a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons. His academic journey includes a Bachelor’s from Southern Methodist University, Medical School at UT Southwestern, and residencies at UT Southwestern. Specializing further, he completed Bariatric and Robotic Fellowships, advancing surgical techniques with a focus on patient well-being.

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