Does anyone have experience of ibs being connected to spinal problems?

I developed a problem with my spine over four years ago and, almost simultaneously, bowel/digestive probs sprang up too although, until a couple of days ago when I saw a new GP, no-one has ever connected the two issues. This particular GP said there was a good probability that my spinal problem was causing the dysfunction with my bowel and has now referred me to the neurosurgery unit at Southampton to see if my spine can't be corrected which, if it can, may (hopefully) put my innards right too.

I spent most of yesterday looking for info on the web about this and found loads of it - my GP was quite correct in that IBS can often be cured by sorting out the spine.

I'm now wondering whether anyone else on this network knows anything about the connection between the spinal cord and bowel dysfunction. Please post a reply if you do, I'd be very grateful to hear from you.


24 Replies

  • Hi my name is Jennie:

    Like you didn't have any problems until after my car accident in 11/ 2011. I was diagnosed with IBS 8/2012. I would like to investigate this some more.

  • Hi Jennie,

    Great to hear from you, thanks.

    To get adequate info I had to try Googling several different versions of my question, best results for me came up when I searched using: 'what is the relationship between spinal nerves and the digestive system and bowels?' It's all pretty interesting stuff.

  • Thanks. I have been to several Gastro doctors, tried the Low Fod-diet, Accuputure, Hypnosis, various medications; so far nothing, has worked.

  • Yep, me too - I have a kitchen shelf that's bowed under the weight of the various 'cures' I've bought - nothing but snake oil!

    I was really glad when the doc suggested the spine connection to me as it gives me a bit of hope that something may yet work.

    Will you go back to your GP to ask about this? According to mine, gastro doctors and orthopaedics don't make the connection, but neurosurgeons do.

  • I am going be seeing a new doctor on Monday. I'm definitely going to ask her. I am still having trouble finding more information on it.

  • If you send me an email address via private messaging, I'll send you a copy of a leaflet I have from the University of Kansas which contains some good info.

  • How do I do private messaging ?

  • Just click on my username at the top of this and it'll take you to a private message area.

  • hi Rosie-my name is Sally. I just discovered all these posts about IBS being affected by spinal nerves. I've suggested/questioned my doctors about this 10 yrs.ago and was told "NO" but I still had my suspicions about the possibility of a connection, however I never asked a neurosurgeon as i never had one. I've suffered for more than 40 yrs w/this problem and gastros are content to merely write and re-write for prescriptions that do not work. Am presently on Pentasa for colon inflammation and a Crohn's Disease ulcer, both at a section of my colon where a recent colonoscopy ( probably my 35th over the yrs) shows signs and location of the reanastamosis of an ileostomy .That was done in 1975 "temporarily" (lol) and finally removed, thus reanastomosis, in 1982, (again, lol) which restored my digestive tract to a normal, continuous one. The Pentasa is too new for me to tell if it's going to be helpful. Prior to that, about 6-7 months ago, a gastro. put me on a pretty serious drug called Imuran which is an immunosuppresant drug and ya have to be monitored closely. The max. dosage they'll put a person on is 200 Mg. I started at 50 Mg. and was increased by another 50 Mg over a 4 month period till i reached the 200 mg. max. It was helping and I reluctantly got a little hopeful. Then I began to experience severe arm muscle weakness and pain and my primary thought I should stop using it, after all an immunosuppresant drug cannot be taken lightly.So, now I'm trying the Pentasa. Often, back pain (Lumbar 3,4,5 & the S 1) seems to improve a little after a BM , when the colon is in "Holding" mode. The other problem is the incontinence that the gastros. haven't been able to get me some major improvement for. I could go on and on with details of other aspects of our shared problem but ... The main reason I'm writing you is to ask you if it would be o k for me to send you my E-mail address thru yr private messaging - as you suggested to Jenny89119 - in order for you to E-mail me the the leaflet from the University of Kansas OR info as to how I can get it from them myself without bothering you. It would be greatly appreciated. Thank you,Sally.

  • Hi Sally,

    Thanks for replying, sounds as if you've had a rough ride over a great many years.

    Yes, of course you can send me your private email address and I'll gladly forward the PDF to you.


  • My French GP says there is a connection with th sciatic nerve if this helps.

  • Thanks for the info it all helps.

    From what I've read, it's not just the sciatic nerve that can cause a bowel problem, it's any of them that emerge from the T-level of vertebrae downwards. I wonder, how many IBS-ers have spine probs too without the link being made by their doctors?

  • I had a operation on my spine 2008 sciatic nerve down the right leg and foot, prolapse lower back! Lots of nerve damage after op,and problems with my bowel very slow and stores up....bloating .I'm having a camera to check there is no blockage. As it effects my walking when I'm not emptying my bowel enough. Have lower backake and spams .So I'm sure there is a link.Also having a bad back and people think the op will cure IBS in my case my IBS got worse.:( love this site nice to no I'm not alone :)

  • Thanks Mellisa, you've really made me stop and think a bit harder about this.

    I guess I'm one of the people thinking that getting my spine put right will solve my bowel prob too, but this is obviously not the case and the reverse could happen.

    I'll just have to wait and see what the neuro says (when I eventually get an appointment) and question him really closely about the disadavntages of further surgery. An orthopaedic surgeon did a double decompression on my back 15 months' ago which didn't help with the back/leg pain at all and left the IBS just as it was.

    Hope all goes well with your colonoscopy.

  • Rosie.

    I can entirely empathise with your situation.

    My symptoms are,the same as yours.

    I have had Terrible pains from my back that shoot down my leg, mostly the left one.

    They have been like an electric shock.

    I have also got IBS and multiple Diverticilitis.

    I have my knees Xrayed, but there is only normal wear and tear on them as I am 68 Years old.

    I am extremely worried about the pain coming back.

    I have lost about 25pounds in weight too.

    I have had a Diabetes check as well.

    I have not had the results of the MRI or the Diabetes check yet.

    I don't care if I have to have an op, I just want these pains to go away.

    I have been put on the FODMAP diet, but it is expensive buying some of the food.

    I would be very interested in your checks with the consultant, because I want to let my Doctor and my Dietician know.

    I have already told my Doctor that some people have been referred to,a Neuro Surgeon.


  • Many thanks Pat, sorry to hear you have similar problems to mine.

    I'll certainly post again when I've seen the neuro consultant although I could have a wait of several weeks as you might guess.

  • i have had a right-sided ache itch for years. i also have a lot of cramping. no one can tell me what it is. except...a chiropractor also suggested spinal manipulation

  • Yes, I read quite a lot about chiropractors relieving bowel probs by manipulating the spine. It seems to be more commonly done in the US than it is here Might be worth a try for you.

  • My MRI showed 4 bulging discs,lumbar scoliosis & wear /tear ,I suggested that I feel more comfortable after bowel moment ,could there be a link to my disc problem ,he laughed ,stated nothing would be done as there is no link to the two problems.My gut instinct ,no thats not a pun,is that there is a link,as i do feel a lot better when my bowel is working well.I have been put into yet another box of pain management ,that is useless.Im afraid you are on your own trying to sort this, as yes there is very little information about this.Pain management told me to stop taking any medication that my GP has prescribed as GP do not know how to treat pain.To think I waited 4 months for that appointment. Good luck ,I hope you manage to get more help than i have been given.

  • Thanks for coming back to me and I'm sorry, but not surprised, to hear that you haven't been getting much help.

    There's actually quite a lot of info out there on the web about the link between spinal nerves and bowel dysfunction although it seems to be better recognised in the US than it does here.

    I fully intend to pursue this - hopefully I'll get a neurosurgeon who knows about it.

  • All I know is I have mid back pain that is directly related to my IBS and flares of my symptoms. So can there be relations to all kinds of pain all over based on IBS - after 20 years of dealing with symptoms, I am going with yes.

  • Hi Rosie,

    In 2009 at the London Independent Hosp. I had surgery on my spine (coflex decompression, look it up) for disc problems. Sadly the op didn't work and it was repeated in 2010 at QEQM hosp. Margate. This also didn't work and in fact left me with nerve damage in my right leg which causes a lot of pan.

    I have had IBS for over 10 yrs but has got worse since the surgery and until reading these posts i didn't think they were connected.

    It is however not all doom and gloom, I was referred to a pain clinic for a few weeks where they helped me understand pain and how to deal with it.

    afterwards I was referred to the physiotherapy dept. of my local hosp.(William Harvey, Kent) and they sent me for 6 sessions of hydrotherapy at the hosp. and I can now use those excersises when I go swimming. Next was pilates sessions, which I am having at the moment and again doing the excersises at home. I have also invested in a gym ball, very cheap from Argos which I just sit on and roll backwards and forwards while I am watching tv. All this has REALLY helped.

    I take Pregablin and Zomorph for my back pain but nothing as yet from GP for IBS, I am keeping a food diary and eating smaller meals through the day also keeping an eye on soluble and insoluble fibre.

    I hopthis helps, and if you feel you are not getting the help you need, keep pushing, it is out there.



  • Hi Andie,

    Thanks so much for your reply. I'm sorry to hear that your spine probs were made worse by the surgery you had, I know there's always that risk.

    I have an overgrowth of bone and tissue at L2 - L4 which is pinching my spinal cord and the nerves which emerge at that point. This causes a lot of pain and weakness in my right leg plus other symptoms including (I now firmly believe) bowel and digestive problems. If you Google 'neurogenic bowel' you'll get quite a lot of hits.

    I had a double decompression (not coflex -I looked it up!) in March 2014, by an orthopaedic surgeon, in order to try and clear out the rubbish, but it made no difference except to shift the pain around a bit! The NHS was taking far too long to sort out a neuro appointment, so I've just booked a private consultation on Oct 12th.

    I've previously tried several types of exercise to ease my spine, but nothing really works and has sometimes made matters worse. I live without painkillers except for the occasional cocodamol as they make my digestive issues difficult.

    However, I've been on a low FODMAP diet for the last 3 years and this gives me 90% control over the IBS. It works for a vast number of people on this site and if you haven't already tried it, I really do suggest you give it a go. The link to the developer of the diet is at:

    There's an excellent app you can download from there. This is no 'fad' diet and all NHS dietitians are trained to advise on it now, although their version is a bit watered-down compared to Monash's and, therefore, not as effective in my view.


  • Hi Rosie

    Yes it is.

    Look me up

    Pat Cooper

    I have posted lots of stuff on this subject.


You may also like...