Ulcers Can Cause back Pain

by Zoe Beartoes

In cases of chronic back pain one might think, “Do Ulcers Cause back Pain?” A simple answer to this anxious question is ‘yes’, a peptic ulcer is a probable cause of back pain.

An open sore, lesion or break in the skin or in a mucous membrane is called an ulcer. The thin protective layer that covers / protects the inner surface of body openings like the lining of the stomach and intestines is a mucous membrane. However when people generally use the term ‘ulcers’, they usually mean the peptic ulcer (the one that occurs in the upper digestive system). The digestive system is made up of the esophagus, stomach, duodenum and intestines. Ulcers that occur in the stomach are referred to as gastric ulcers, and likewise there are duodenal ulcers and esophageal ulcers. 80% of peptic ulcers are duodenal ulcers.

There are many symptoms of ulcers. The most common sign of ulcers is an intermittent and irritating pain in the stomach this pain also transfers to other areas such as the shoulder blades, back, indigestion, heartburn, gas, bloating, appetite loss and nausea. A few well known symptoms of ulcers are back pain, headache, itching and choking sensation.

In the olden days it was generally believed by physicians that too much stress causes ulcers. The classic theory was based on the fact that high amount of stress can increase hydrochloric acid production. This acid is strong enough to hurt protective mucous lining of stomach and as a result causing an ulcer. Though this theory is still accepted by many physicians, but nowadays it has also been well established that bacterial infection is the prime cause of ulcers in more than 70 to 80 % patients.

Gastric ulceration is most commonly caused by bacteria known as ‘Helicobacter Pylori’. This bacterium has been known to dig into the mucous layer of the stomach and cause inflammation. Excessive amounts of acidic juices generated by the stomach because of spicy foods is capable of burning the lining of the digestive tract and hence damaging the digestive system. Excessive amounts of physical and emotional stress will probably aggravate an existing ulcer, although it’s not considered the root cause of ulcer.

Apart form the infection, use of non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs can also trigger ulcers. NSAIDs are commonly used by people as pain killers for headaches, sore muscles, menstrual cramps and other similar situations. Belonging to this family of NSAIDs is aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen, excessive use of such type of drugs may prove to be detrimental to the stomach lining and cause ulcers. Mucosal protection is further damaged by over consumption of Alcoholic beverages and heavy smoking.

As a first step towards ulcer diagnosis, any physician would inquire about the symptoms. Besides the symptoms, the physician would look for factors from a patient’s such as any cases of family history of ulcers or stomach cancers, frequency of alcohol consumption, smoking habits, patient’s age, recent weight loss, repeated nausea or vomiting incidences, back pain, history of using anti-inflammatory drugs or other NSAIDs. Apart from the symptoms and patient’s history, endoscopy is a modern approach to minimally invasive diagnostic medical procedure. Endoscopy is also well accepted as one of the best methods of diagnosing ulcers. An endoscope is a narrow tube which contains a light and tiny camera at its end to study the patient’s digestive system. When this tube is inserted down the patient’s throat the physician can examine the interior walls of the stomach and duodenum. Endoscope can also carry a small scissor to cut off small sample of mucous membrane for further examination of potential stomach cancer.

Imaging techniques are frequently relied on since not many patients are comfortable with the endoscope. During the procedure the patient is asked to drink a fluid of Barium. Barium is opaque and transparent to x-rays. The x-ray image of the patient’s digestive system can highlight abnormalities such as ulcers that may be present where the opaque substance appears as a white patch on the x-ray image. Many symptoms of ulcers can be treated with drugs easily purchased over the counter that are used to subdue the pain, nausea or general discomfort caused by ulcers.

Do ulcers cause back pain? Yes, ucers and especially peptic ulcers do cause severe back pain. Such pain is likely to happen immediately after eating when someone is suffering from ulcers.

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