12 Causes of Back Pain and Nausea with Treatment

Are you experiencing the uncomfortable combination of back pain and nausea? These symptoms can be both distressing and debilitating. Back pain and nausea can be caused by a wide range of factors, from minor muscle strains to more serious health concerns. By understanding the potential causes, you can take steps to find relief and know when to seek medical attention. In this article, we’ll explore 12 common causes of back pain and nausea.

What is Back Pain?

Back pain is a common complaint that can range from mild to severe and can occur in the upper, middle, or lower back. It can be acute, lasting a few days to a few weeks, or chronic, persisting for months or even years. Common symptoms of back pain include:

  • Dull, aching pain
  • Sharp, shooting pain
  • Stiffness or limited range of motion
  • Pain that radiates to the legs or arms

What is Nausea?

Nausea is the feeling of discomfort in the stomach that often precedes vomiting. It can be caused by a wide range of factors, including digestive issues, infections, and certain medications. While nausea is not always accompanied by vomiting, it can be a distressing symptom that significantly impacts daily life.

The Connection Between Back Pain and Nausea

At first glance, back pain and nausea might seem like an odd couple. After all, your back and your stomach are two different parts of your body. However, there are several reasons why these symptoms often go hand-in-hand:

  • Shared nerve pathways: Your digestive system and your back share some of the same nerve pathways. When something irritates these nerves, you may feel pain in your back and experience nausea or other digestive issues.
  • Referred pain: Sometimes, pain in one area of your body can “refer” or spread to another area. For example, a problem with your gallbladder or pancreas can cause pain in your upper back and nausea.
  • Underlying conditions: Certain health issues, such as endometriosis, kidney stones, or even the flu, can cause both back pain and nausea as separate symptoms.

Understanding these connections can help you and your doctor pinpoint the root cause of your symptoms and find the most effective treatment plan.

Back Pain and Nausea
Back Pain and Nausea

12 Causes of Back Pain and Nausea with Treatment

1. Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach flu, is a common culprit behind back pain and nausea. This condition occurs when your stomach and intestines become inflamed due to a viral or bacterial infection. The intense stomach cramping caused by gastroenteritis can radiate to your back.

If you suspect you have gastroenteritis, it’s essential to stay hydrated and rest. Stick to a bland diet of easily digestible foods like toast and bananas, and avoid dairy products and sugary drinks. If your symptoms persist for more than a few days or you show signs of dehydration, consult your doctor.

To prevent gastroenteritis, practice good hygiene habits such as washing your hands frequently, especially before eating or preparing food. Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and thoroughly cook meats and eggs to reduce the risk of bacterial infections.

2. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is a serious condition characterized by inflammation of the pancreas. It can cause sudden, severe pain in the upper abdomen that radiates to the back, as well as nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms may include fever, swollen or tender stomach, and pale-colored stools.

There are two main types of pancreatitis: acute and chronic. Acute pancreatitis comes on suddenly and typically resolves within a few days with treatment. Chronic pancreatitis, on the other hand, is a long-term condition that can lead to permanent damage to the pancreas.

Common causes of pancreatitis include:

  • Gallstones
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Certain medications
  • High levels of triglycerides in the blood
  • Autoimmune disorders

If you experience symptoms of pancreatitis, seek medical attention immediately. This condition can be life-threatening if left untreated and requires prompt medical care.

3. Liver Disease

Liver diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer can cause back pain and nausea. The pain typically starts in the upper right part of the abdomen and spreads to the back. As the condition progresses, the pain may worsen over time.

Other symptoms of liver disease may include:

  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Swelling in the legs and abdomen
  • Itchy skin
  • Dark urine
  • Pale, bloody, or tar-colored stools

If you suspect you have a liver problem, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional. Do not attempt to treat liver issues at home, as they require proper medical diagnosis and treatment.

4. Kidney Stones

Kidney stones can cause severe pain in the mid-back region, typically on one side. This pain may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and discomfort in the groin area. Most kidney stones will pass on their own within a few days, but the process can be excruciating.

Kidney stones form when minerals and other substances in the urine crystallize and stick together. Risk factors for developing kidney stones include:

  • Dehydration
  • High-sodium diet
  • Obesity
  • Family history of kidney stones
  • Certain medical conditions such as gout or inflammatory bowel disease

To prevent kidney stones, drink plenty of water, limit your intake of sodium and animal protein, and maintain a healthy weight.

If you think you have a kidney stone, drink plenty of water and take over-the-counter pain medication as needed. However, if your pain is severe or you develop a fever, seek medical attention.

5. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract and multiply, causing infection. While most people associate UTIs with pelvic pain and burning during urination, they can also cause back pain and nausea, particularly if the infection has spread to the kidneys.

Women are more prone to UTIs than men due to their shorter urethra, which allows bacteria to reach the bladder more easily. Other risk factors for UTIs include:

  • Sexual activity
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Certain birth control methods, such as diaphragms or spermicides
  • Catheter use
  • Blockages in the urinary tract

To prevent UTIs, practice good hygiene habits, such as wiping from front to back after using the bathroom and urinating before and after sexual activity. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding holding in urine for long periods can also help flush bacteria from the urinary tract.

If you suspect you have a UTI, it’s essential to see a doctor. UTIs require antibiotic treatment to clear the infection and prevent complications.


6. Appendicitis

Appendicitis occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed and filled with pus. This condition typically causes pain in the lower right abdomen, but in some cases, the pain may be felt primarily in the back. Nausea, vomiting, and fever are also common symptoms.

The exact cause of appendicitis is not always clear, but it often results from a blockage in the appendix caused by fecal matter, a foreign object, or a tumor. If left untreated, the appendix can rupture, leading to a life-threatening infection called peritonitis.

Appendicitis is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. If you experience symptoms of appendicitis, seek medical care right away.

7. Gallbladder Disease

Gallbladder disease, such as gallstones or inflammation, can cause pain in the upper right abdomen that radiates to the back. This pain may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and indigestion, particularly after eating fatty foods.

The gallbladder is a small organ that stores and releases bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver. Gallstones form when substances in the bile crystallize and harden, blocking the flow of bile and causing inflammation.

Risk factors for gallbladder disease include:

  • Being female
  • Being over age 40
  • Obesity
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Pregnancy
  • Family history of gallstones
  • Certain medications, such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy

If you suspect you have a gallbladder issue, consult your doctor. Treatment may involve medication, dietary changes, or in some cases, surgery to remove the gallbladder.

8. Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a common cause of back pain and nausea, particularly in the first trimester. As the uterus expands, it can put pressure on the back muscles, leading to discomfort. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also contribute to nausea and vomiting, often referred to as morning sickness.

Other factors that may contribute to back pain during pregnancy include:

  • Weight gain
  • Changes in posture
  • Stress
  • Muscle separation (diastasis recti)

To alleviate back pain during pregnancy, try gentle exercises such as walking or prenatal yoga, use a supportive mattress and pillows, and practice good posture. Wearing a supportive maternity belt can also help distribute the weight of the growing uterus more evenly.

For morning sickness, try eating small, frequent meals throughout the day, avoiding triggers such as strong smells or spicy foods, and drinking plenty of fluids. Ginger tea or supplements may also help reduce nausea.

If you’re pregnant and experiencing back pain or nausea, talk to your healthcare provider. They can offer guidance on safe ways to manage your symptoms and ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Symptoms of Food Poisoning
Symptoms of Food Poisoning

9. Food Poisoning

Food poisoning occurs when you consume contaminated food or water. Symptoms typically include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps, but in some cases, back pain may also be present.

Common causes of food poisoning include:

  • Bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria
  • Viruses such as norovirus and rotavirus
  • Parasites such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium
  • Toxins produced by certain bacteria or molds

To prevent food poisoning, practice safe food handling techniques, such as washing your hands frequently, keeping raw meats separate from other foods, and cooking foods to the appropriate temperature. Avoid consuming unpasteurized dairy products, raw or undercooked meats, and unwashed fruits and vegetables.

Most cases of food poisoning resolve on their own within a few days. However, if your symptoms are severe or persist for more than a few days, consult your doctor.

10. Menstrual Cramps

For some women, menstrual cramps can be severe enough to cause back pain and nausea. This is because the uterus contracts during menstruation, which can put pressure on nearby muscles and organs.

Other symptoms of menstrual cramps may include:

  • Throbbing or cramping pain in the lower abdomen
  • Dull, constant ache
  • Pain that radiates to the lower back and thighs
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

If you experience severe menstrual cramps, over-the-counter pain medication and heat therapy may provide relief.

11. Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can manifest in physical symptoms, including back pain and nausea. When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones that can cause muscle tension and digestive issues.

Other physical symptoms of stress and anxiety may include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Difficulty concentrating

If you suspect stress or anxiety is contributing to your symptoms, try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can also help manage stress. If your symptoms are severe or persistent, consider talking to a mental health professional.

12. Medications

Certain medications, such as antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and opioid pain relievers, can cause nausea and vomiting as side effects. In some cases, the strain of vomiting can lead to back pain.

Other medications that may cause nausea and vomiting include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Aspirin
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Vitamins and supplements, especially iron

If you suspect your medication is causing nausea or back pain, talk to your doctor. They may be able to adjust your dosage or prescribe an alternative medication.

Stretches Exercise to Help You Relieve Sciatica Hip and Back Pain
Stretches Exercise to Help You Relieve Sciatica Hip and Back Pain

Home Remedies for Back Pain and Nausea

1. Heat and Cold Therapy

Applying heat or cold to the affected area can help reduce back pain and muscle tension. For acute pain, start with cold therapy by applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel to your back for 15-20 minutes at a time.

This can help reduce inflammation and numb the pain. For chronic back pain, switch to heat therapy using a heating pad, warm compress, or a warm bath to relax tense muscles and improve blood flow to the area.

2. Gentle Stretching and Exercise

Engaging in gentle stretching and low-impact exercises can help alleviate back pain and prevent future episodes. Try exercises like knee-to-chest stretches, pelvic tilts, bridging, and gentle yoga poses to improve flexibility and strengthen your core and back muscles.

Regular aerobic exercises like walking, swimming, or cycling can also help maintain mobility and reduce pain.

3.Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) can help relieve back pain and reduce inflammation.

Always follow the dosage instructions on the package and consult with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or pre-existing medical conditions.

4. Ginger

Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties that can help alleviate both back pain and nausea. Try drinking ginger tea, taking ginger supplements, or incorporating fresh ginger into your meals.

A 2020 review found that consuming ginger can modestly reduce muscle pain and may accelerate recovery from exercise-induced muscle pain.

Peppermint for Heartburn Relief
Peppermint for Heartburn Relief

5. Peppermint

Peppermint has antispasmodic properties that can help relax tense muscles in the back and alleviate pain. It also has a cooling effect that can soothe sore muscles.

You can drink peppermint tea, apply diluted peppermint essential oil to your back, or take enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules.

7. Acupressure and Massage

Applying pressure to specific points on the body, known as acupressure, can help alleviate back pain and nausea. Try pressing on the LI-4 point, located in the web between your thumb and index finger, or the PC-6 point, located three fingers below your wrist on the inner arm.

Gentle self-massage or seeking the help of a professional massage therapist can also help relax tense back muscles and promote circulation.

8. Relaxation Techniques

Stress and anxiety can exacerbate back pain and nausea. Practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, or gentle yoga can help reduce tension in your body and promote a sense of calm.

These techniques can also help you cope with the emotional impact of chronic pain and improve your overall well-being.

9. Herbal Remedies

Several herbs have been traditionally used to alleviate back pain and nausea. Turmeric, known for its anti-inflammatory properties, can be consumed as a supplement or added to meals.

Boswellia, also known as Indian frankincense, has been shown to reduce inflammation and alleviate chronic back pain. For nausea, try sipping on chamomile, fennel, or lemon balm tea to soothe your stomach.

When to Seek Medical Attention?

While some causes of back pain and nausea may resolve on their own or with self-care measures, it’s essential to seek medical attention if you experience:

  • Severe, persistent, or worsening pain
  • Pain that radiates to the chest, jaw, or left arm (may indicate a heart attack)
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever or chills
  • Blood in the urine or stool
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting that prevents you from keeping down fluids