Can Acid Reflux Cause Back Pain – Latest Research Included

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Acid reflux refers to a situation where stomach contents (such as acid and food) are reabsorbed into the esophagus in the lower back of the throat. This can cause heartburn, a painful burning sensation in the chest.

Certain people suffering from acid reflux also experience back pain, which is often accompanied by episodes of heartburn. This back pain can be a result of frequent acid reflux triggers, such as alcohol, spicy food, or coffee.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Issues with the digestive system.

This article will explain why you may be experiencing back pain or acid reflux simultaneously and how to treat the symptoms.

Acid Reflux vs. GERD vs. Heartburn

A lot of people make use of the words “acid reflux”,” “GERD” (gastroesophageal reflux disorder)”GERD” (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and “heartburn” in conjunction. But they have the same meaning but with different meanings, such as:

  • Acid reflux is when the stomach acid is pumped back upwards into the throat.
  • Heartburn refers to the burning sensation that is uncomfortable and occurs.
  • GERD can be described as an ongoing condition where acid reflux is a regular occurrence with the result of persistent heartburn.

The Link Between Acid Reflux and Back Pain

It's not clear why acid reflux causes back pain. Many people experience the burning sensation from heartburn that occurs in the middle of their chest, behind their breastbone and spreads out into their lower or upper back.

This can become worse after eating or while lying down. Other signs of acid reflux, including nausea and bloating, could cause or worsen the referred back discomfort.

Researchers believe there is a connection between the esophagus muscles and the lower portion of the lower back, just above the pelvic region.

They believe that functional or structural problems of muscle groups in the lower back may contribute to issues with the esophagus. These include acid reflux, dysphagia, heartburn (difficulty swallowing), and regurgitation.

Acid reflux can also be associated with other ailments impacting breathing, posture, and/ or all three. Examples include:

  • Scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the lateral spine)
  • Hernia hiatal (an uppermost portion of the stomach that pushes through an open diaphragm)
  • The Upper Crossed syndrome (UCS) (muscles that are located in the neck, chest, and shoulders are weak and tight)
  • The respiratory conditions include asthma and chronic obstructive respiratory disease (COPD)

All of these conditions are often linked with back discomfort. Poor posture can pressure the lower and chest muscles, making breathing difficult for the esophagus to function correctly. It is not clear whether acid reflux is the primary cause of back pain or a risk factor.

Other risks that back pain and acid reflux share in common are:

  • Poor posture (especially when you are in a hunched posture for prolonged periods)
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol use

Acid Reflux, Back Pain, and Pregnancy

Back pain is commonplace during pregnancy because of hormonal fluctuations, postural changes, extra weight, and the increasing uterus. Many women also have the acidity of pregnancy, which may cause back pain.

Beware of common acid reflux triggers. Using lumbar support or pillows for maternity sleep could help.

How Back Pain Due to Acid Reflux Feels

Back pain due to acid reflux can be felt as a burning, cramping, stabbing, or squeezing feeling in the middle, upper, or lower back. It can feel like heartburn is moving around or descending from your chest towards your back. It can be an ache that isn't as intense, particularly on your lower back.

Alongside back and stomach pain, You may also experience other signs of acidity like:

  • A bitter and unpleasant taste that lingers in your mouth and throat.
  • Hoarseness
  • The smell of foul-smelling breath
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Burping
  • Cough
  • Hiccups
  • It is painful after swallowing


There are many potential locations in which you could be suffering from back pain due to acid reflux. This includes:

  • Sometimes, heartburn causes pain in the sternum (the heart's center), which is located in the back of the upper part, precisely behind the shoulder blades.
  • Lower or middle back: Some patients experience lower or middle back pain or discomfort from acid reflux. This could be caused by an associated health issue, such as scoliosis or COPD, as well as other factors that increase risk, like obesity.
  • On the other hand, One-sided lower back discomfort could be an indication of postural issues caused by acid reflux. However, it could also be caused by other conditions, including kidney problems.

Severe Symptoms

In rare instances, back pain can get so bad that you are unable to sleep or walk, bend, or stand. This can seriously impact your daily life. Physical therapists may be able to address the back pain you are experiencing, and the gastroenterologist can assist you in controlling your acid reflux.

If you suffer from acid reflux-related heartburn at least two times a week, it could be a sign of a gastrointestinal esophageal condition. This condition can last for a long time and is caused by the lower portion of your esophagus relaxing excessively, allowing stomach acid and food to flow into the throat's back.

Hospitalization for Severe Acid Reflux Back Pain

It's unlikely that you'll have to undergo hospitalization due to back pain caused by acid reflux. However, it is vital to seek medical assistance immediately when you notice any of the following symptoms that GERD commonly causes:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Trouble swallowing or eating
  • Appetite loss
  • Severe vomiting
  • Bloody stool or vomiting

It would help if you also thought about seeing an experienced medical professional for these symptoms along with the back pain you are experiencing:

  • Numbness or tingling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fever
  • It isn't easy to walk
  • Unintentional weight loss

These could be indications that the back pain you are experiencing isn't caused by acid reflux.

How to Manage Mild to Moderate Back Pain at Home

There are various ways to treat minor to moderate back pain caused by acid reflux in your home. These could involve preventing or resolving acid reflux, dealing with back pain directly, or both.

Learn to Recognize Acid Reflux Triggers

The best method to avoid back pain that is caused by acid reflux or any other symptoms due to the acidity of your stomach is to be aware of and avoid heartburn triggers. Acid reflux triggers differ from person to person, but the most commonly used ones are:

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Citrus fruits
  • Foods with a kick
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Fried food items
  • Sour foods
  • Mint
  • Chocolate
  • Foods high in fat
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes

Change Your Posture

Acid reflux symptoms are often worse when you bend or lie down. Sitting up straight or standing will help stretch your abdominal muscles and allow extra space for digestion. In particular, when eating, it's essential not to sit in a slouche or slumped in your chair.

Sleeping With Acid Reflux

It isn't easy to sleep with acid reflux. Sleeping with your head elevated between 6 and eight inches (such as wedge pillows or an adjustable bed) could help you avoid heartburn symptoms and promote more restful sleep.

Eat Smaller Meals

Intense meals, especially before bed, may increase the likelihood of acid reflux. Making smaller meals during the day and avoiding eating for three hours before bed could reduce the chances of developing heartburn.

Take Over-the-Counter Medications

There are various over-the-counter (OTC) acidic medications available that assist with digestive symptoms caused by acid reflux, such as constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn. In addition, OTC pain-relieving medications, like Advil and Motrin (ibuprofen), could effectively manage moderate to mild back discomfort.

Manage Stress

Numerous studies have connected acid reflux to stress. High-stress levels can make acid reflux symptoms more severe. Stress can also be linked to chronic pain, particularly back and neck discomfort.

Controlling your stress levels with lifestyle changes, including mindfulness practices such as deep breathing exercises and exercise, can help reduce back pain from acid reflux. If you experience constant anxiety, depression, or panic symptoms, as well as other mental health problems, you should consider contacting your mental health professional to get assistance.

Lose Weight If Necessary

Studies have shown that weight management could help ease the symptoms of acid reflux. If needed, consult an expert in the field about how to shed weight safely by exercising and diet changes.

Acid Reflux Treatment Approaches

In addition to the lifestyle modifications, Your healthcare professional might recommend one of the below treatment option(s) to help treat acid reflux:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Prescription medicines, like H2 blockers as well as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
  • Surgery, like the fundoplication (top of stomach wraps in the esophagus) when the symptoms are persistent and serious

Complications and Effect on Quality of Life

Although acid reflux is common, it can cause complications if not addressed. These problems can adversely impact your general health, particularly if you're experiencing persistent back pain. Possible complications from inactive acid reflux GERD are:

  • Asthma
  • The condition is known as laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx)
  • Chronic cough
  • Loss of tooth and damage to the tooth
  • Esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus) can result in ulcers and bleeding.
  • Esophageal tighture (narrowing of the esophagus)
  • Barrett's esophagus that could result in esophageal cancer (a specific kind of cancer)


In some instances, acid reflux can cause or worsen back pain. This could be because of risk factors that back discomfort and acid reflux share, like respiratory issues, postural problems, and overweight. It could also be because chest pain radiates into the back, either in the upper or lower.

There are various ways to deal with moderate to moderate back pain caused by acid reflux at home, including using over-the-counter medicines and identifying your acid reflux triggers. You can also reduce your meal portions, alter your posture, reduce stress levels, and lose weight as necessary. If you experience greater severity of acid reflux or back pain, speak to a doctor to discuss the best options for treatment.

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