The Link Between Crohn’s Disease And Lower Back Pain

Crohn’s disease is characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract lining and can affect any area of the tract between the mouth and anus. The most common form of the disease affects the small intestine and colon. Crohn’s causes symptoms both inside and outside the gastrointestinal tract. Gastrointestinal symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, weight loss and bloody stools. It can cause problems beyond the tract due to malnutrition, such as osteoporosis. Other extraintestinal symptoms like arthritis may be caused by immunological factors.

An exact cause of this condition is not known, but it is believed that genetic and immunological factors are involved. Inflammation is normally modulated by the immune system; the body perceives abnormalities like viruses or injuries as threats and responds by sending a rush of inflammatory fluids to the area in the interest of blocking off the perceived threat and facilitating healing. Chronic inflammation can lead to tissue damage and prolonged pain. Some medical professionals and researchers theorize that a bacterial or viral infection can spark the inflammatory response that leads to Crohn’s disease, but this remains to be proven.

Many people with Crohn’s suffer from lower back pain. The following related conditions may be responsible.


According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, about 25% of people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), either colitis or Crohn’s disease, develop arthritis. Some of these people will develop axial arthritis, or arthritis of the lumbar spine and sacroiliac joints, which form where the large hip bones meet the sacrum at the base of the spine. Axial arthritis can, over time, cause spinal segments to fuse together, creating permanent limited range of motion and pain.

Pain and stiffness in the lower back is the first sign of axial arthritis. Body mechanics suffer as movement patterns are altered to prevent painful motions; this can lead to widespread muscle and joint pain. Inflammation of the sacroiliac joints, also called sacroiliitis, can lead to sciatica nerve pain if the nearby nerve becomes impinged.

Though arthritis usually affects older people, Crohn’s-related arthritis is common in young people with the disease.


Crohn’s prevents proper absorption of nutrients through the intestines into the body. Vitamin D and calcium are key nutrients for bone health. Osteoporosis is a disease most known to affect women over the age of 50, but one study on Crohn’s patients shows the disease to be common among both men and women of a mean age of 32. The study assessed the bone mineral density of 34 men and 22 women between the ages of 18 and 54, all of whom have Crohn’s disease. The alarming results showed that 35.7% had osteoporosis and another 23.2% had osteopenia, which signifies lower-than-normal bone mineral density, but not low enough to qualify as osteoporosis. See more on the study at

Osteoporosis often leads to vertebral fractures in the lumbar spine. This segment of the spine bears the brunt of the upper body’s weight and is also highly mobile, meaning it does a lot of work. Vertebral fractures can cause changes in spinal curvature, leaving other vertebrae more susceptible to fracture. Pain may result from the fracture itself, inflammation and biomechanical changes.

Natural Treatments

People with axial arthritis are generally prescribed a lower back stretching regimen to prevent fusing of the spinal segments and maintain flexibility. They are also advised to use moist heat on the lower back.

Those who are at risk for osteoporosis or who have developed it may need to supplement vitamin D and calcium to try to compensate for the lack of nutrient absorption caused by Crohn’s.

Of course, the best way to treat Crohn’s symptoms is to address Crohn’s itself. Unfortunately, nobody is sure what causes it and, therefore, what can treat it. Whether conventional or natural, your treatment will be largely experimental. Consider following the reasonable tips at for helping your digestive tract recover.

Crohn’s-related back pain could indicate a serious problem like axial arthritis or osteoporosis even if you are young. If you have symptoms of Crohn’s, see a specialist and/or dietitian soon.