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Back Pain and Incontinence: Are They Related?

Experiencing back pain and incontinence at the same time could be a sign of a serious condition. Learn more about the two symptoms and how they could be related in the article below.

back pain and incontinence - are they related

Back Pain and Urinary Incontinence

Surprisingly, many patients with incontinence also experience back pain. In fact, researchers in Canada in 2017 decided to study the phenomenon. They found that adults experiencing urinary incontinence (UI) were more likely to also experience back pain. This was true for both men and women. A 2016 study found that the co-existence of back pain and UI occurs most often in individuals with sciatica (lower back pain with pain that radiates down the leg(s)).

Even though these two symptoms frequently occur together they are not necessarily related. In some cases, UI and back pain can both be caused by the same condition. However, in other cases, the two symptoms may be unrelated.

Potential Causes for Experiencing Both Back Pain and UI

Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES)

A sudden onset of both back pain and urinary incontinence can indicate  a serious condition called cauda equina syndrome (CES). If you experience a sudden onset of both symptoms you should seek medical care immediately.

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a rare condition in which a bundle of nerves (called the cauda equina) in the lower spine are compressed.  The nerve compression can be caused by many conditions such as a ruptured or herniated disc, spinal stenosis or tumor.  This bundle of nerves is responsible for communication with the groin area and legs. If left untreated, CES may result in permanent nerve damage and/or paralysis.

CES is a rare condition that can cause both urinary incontinence and back pain.

Common Risk Factors

Some individuals experience both UI and back pain but they are unrelated. One reason that both symptoms coexist so frequently is their common risk factors. There are several risk factors which increase your risk for UI and also increase your risk for back pain. These include:

  • smoking
  • being overweight or obese
  • age

In addition, an individual’s core muscle strength can play a role in them developing either symptom. The strength of the core (trunk) muscles can affect stress on the spine and impact a person’s tendency to have back pain. The strength of the pelvic floor muscles can impact an individual’s ability to control their bladder and result in incontinence. Some recent studies have also been attempting to understand the role pelvic floor muscles have on spinal stability as well.

There are many reasons you may experience both back pain and urinary incontinence. Both are fairly common and they aren’t necessarily related. However, if you experience a sudden onset of both symptoms, please seek medical care immediately.




*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery