Musculoskeletal Pain and Tightness and IBS

Last updated: January 2023

While some of the most profound pain I routinely experience is in the pelvic region, it's not exclusive to that part of my body. I experience chronic pain and muscle tightness and spasm throughout my body, from my head to my toes and spreading out through all my limbs.

How muscle pain feels

I have written before on here about the connection between spinal/back problems and IBS. But the truth is IBS could theoretically be tied to or exacerbated by many other musculoskeletal issues as well. For instance, I noted within the first few years of my IBS diagnosis that whenever I was feeling a lot of muscle tightness or pain, that I was much more likely to have an IBS flare. Often, this pain was in my legs and lower back. I would feel this icy tightness running up my calves and thighs and spasms would then seize my back. Within a short amount of time, I'd be running to the bathroom.

Ways to ease muscle pain with IBS

Conversely, I noticed some things that helped relax the muscles in my back and legs – such as warm baths and heating pads, gentle stretching, etc. – seemed to benefit my IBS. They could help at least ease, or sometimes even stop, a flare.

This is why I also found enormous relief in my IBS from massage therapy, chiropractic care, and acupuncture. But when I can't make it into a professional's office, I have learned some tricks for calming down tense muscles. For instance, I take two tennis balls and put them in a long sock and will then self-massage a tight trigger point by pressing my body against this makeshift massage tool on the floor or wall. I also have a foam roller to do this as well and some other small handheld massage tools. I even have a rolling pin that people use for baking that I find particularly helpful for massaging the tops of my thighs (especially my IT bands) and calves (I learned this trick from a pain pain rehab program I attended).

What is the link between muscle pain and IBS?

This makes some sense from a biological standpoint. There is something called "lower crossed syndrome," which is a muscle imbalance caused by tight hip flexors, which in turn inhibits or weakens the muscles in the glutes. And when this happens, the lower back and abdominal muscles likewise get pulled and tighten, which can adversely impact IBS. As such, trying to loosen those muscles in the body can be a potential way to help IBS and lower incidences of flares.

Do you find tight muscles – especially in your legs and lower back – seems to affect IBS? If so, have you found anything that helps in that regard? Please share your experiences below!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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