Back pain after eating

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Even though arthritis and muscle strains are the most common causes of back pain, sometimes eating can be the trigger.

Eating-related back pain usually indicates an underlying problem in the digestive tract or inflammation, however, sometimes the origin might be cardiac.

What causes back pain after eating?

6 Common Causes Of Back Pain After Eating
A short video about 6 common eating-related causes of back pain. Duration: 3:49

Our backs are often victims of referred pain, that is, pain that you experience in a body part that’s not likely to be the source of discomfort.

For example, a heart attack can cause pain radiating from the heart into your back, left arm, shoulder, or jaw. Ulcers, bad posture, a kidney infection can also cause your back to hurt, and so does acid reflux. While the classic symptoms of these diseases are chest and stomach pains, they can also trigger back pain.

Allergies and intolerance to certain types of foods – like gluten, alcohol, or peanuts – can cause an inflammatory response and induce back pain.

Posture-related pain is the most common in people who have finished their meal by sitting in bad posture. For example, bending and drawing the shoulder forward.

Here are some of the most common conditions that can cause back pain after eating:

  • heart attack
  • acid reflux
  • gallbladder inflammation
  • pancreatitis
  • kidney infection
  • ulcers
  • hiatal hernia
  • food allergies

Upper back pain after eating

Possible causes of upper back pain after eating are acid reflux, heart issues, and gallstones.

All of these conditions might trigger pain around the center of the upper back, between the shoulder blades.

Heart attack can also cause pain in the left side of the upper back, left shoulder, and left arm. Women are more likely to experience pressure in the upper back than men.

Watch our for other typical heart attack symptoms (see below), as this condition is a medical emergency!

Acid reflux is a possible trigger of both upper and mid back pain. The pain usually gets worse when lying down.

Gallbladder issues -like gallstones – typically cause symptoms on the right side. Upper right back pain, right shoulder pain, especially after eating fatty foods, might indicate a problem with the gallbladder.

Mid back pain after eating

Eating-related pain in the middle back area might be caused by acid reflux, pancreatitis, kidney infection, or ulcers.

Middle back pain is a possible, but not a typical symptom of acid reflux. When stomach acids irritate the esophagus, the pain might radiate into the back.

An inflamed pancreas often causes upper stomach pain, which sometimes might radiate into the back. The pain is usually felt on the left side. Typical trigger foods are greasy food and alcohol.

An infected kidney can trigger severe back pain. Depending on which kidney is infected, the can be felt on the left, right, or both sides of the middle back.

Ulcers can not only cause abdominal pain, but also pain in the lower and middle back.

Lower back pain after eating

Lower Back pain

Mainly pre-existing diseases cause lower back pain after eating:

  • kidney stones
  • pancreatitis
  • gallstones
  • ischemia
  • peptic ulcer

Lower back pain after eating is usually referred pain, due to the same nerve supply of certain organs.

For example, peptic ulcers that have an origin in the stomach can cause lower back pain after eating.

Eating & right side back pain

Common causes of pain in the right side of the back after eating are:

  • muscular spasm of the back
  • pyelonephritis (kidney infection) of the right side.
  • appendicitis
  • bad posture

The most common causes of eating-related right-sided back pain are appendicitis and infection of the right kidney.

The appendix is the accessory organ of your body that can get inflamed due to vascular and infectious diseases. It may get ruptured and pain can radiate to your back.

Pyelonephritis is an infectious disease of the kidney. It causes pus formation in the kidney and induces back pain on the affected side.

Eating & left side back pain

Common causes of pain in the left side of the back after eating are:

  • abnormal posture
  • pregnancy
  • inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis)
  • pancreatitis
  • kidney infection and stones
  • infections of the pelvis and perineum

The most common causes of pain on the left side of the back after eating are kidney stones and pancreatitis.

Ulcerative colitis-associated left side back pain is due to the inflammatory response of the colon that may cause referred pain on the left side of the back.

Back pain after eating fatty foods

Acid reflux and gallbladder problems are the two most common causes of back pain after greasy foods.

Several studies found an association between fat intake and acid reflux symptoms:

  • The stomach secrets more acid while digesting fat.
  • When eating fat, digestive juices might get into the esophagus easier.

These increase the risk of esophageal acid exposure. Even though the typical symptom is heartburn (chest pain), sometimes pain might radiate into the back.

Gallbladder pain can also radiate into the back or right shoulder blade. Since the gallbladder helps in the digestion of fat, eating too much fatty food might trigger symptoms.

These are the most common health conditions that might trigger back pain after eating:

Heart attack

While not common, if back pain occurs together with the typical symptoms of a heart attack, you should seek immediate medical assistance.

In such cases pain is most likely to spread to the upper back area, you might describe it as pain between the shoulder blades.

Typical symptoms:

  • chest pain
  • pain in the neck, jaw, arms, or shoulders
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • nausea
  • lightheadedness

Typical trigger foods:

  • fatty foods
  • eating too much, too fast

Eating too much heavy food might increase the risk of heart attack by about four times within two hours after eating.

Acid reflux

When stomach acids find their way up into the food pipe, they might irritate the lining of the esophagus, which is described as a burning sensation in the chest. It is commonly called heartburn.

This pain can also radiate into the back, you might feel it both in the upper and mid area of your back, typically around the center of the back.

Sometimes the pain is so severe that people think it is a heart attack. If you lie down and the pain gets worse, it is likely heartburn. (Lying down makes it easier for the stomach acids to flow up in the food pipe.)

Typical symptoms:

  • chest pain
  • sour taste in the mouth
  • regurgitation
  • bloating
  • dyspepsia
  • burping
  • nausea
  • pain gets worse when lying down

Typical trigger foods:

Gallbladder problems

The gallbladder helps in the digestion of fat. If you have gallstones or your gallbladder is inflamed and you eat too much greasy food, that might cause sharp stomach pain.

Since the gallbladder is located a bit right, symptoms are more likely to occur on the right side or in the center.

Sometimes this pain can radiate into the back, typical locations are the right part of the back and the upper back between the shoulder blades.

Typical symptoms:

  • sudden and intense stomach pain
  • upper back pain
  • right shoulder pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Typical trigger foods:


Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. Typical symptoms are upper stomach pain, back pain. fever, nausea, etc.

Mid-back pain after eating can be caused by pancreas problems.

Typical symptoms:

  • upper abdominal pain
  • back pain around the middle of the back
  • fever
  • rapid pulse
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Typical trigger foods:

Kidney infection

Mid-back pain can be a sign of kidney infection. The pain can be sharp and sudden, chances are it is accompanied by fever.

In case of kidney problems, you can feel back pain on both sides or only on the left or right side, depending on whether one or both kidney is causing the problem.

The inflammation of the kidney and kidney stones are serious medical conditions and might require immediate medical attention.

Typical symptoms:

  • chest pain
  • swelling in your legs
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • weakness
  • frequent urination
  • blood in the urine or foamy urine

Typical trigger foods:


Ulcers in the stomach and esophagus can cause pain that radiates into the back.

Abdominal pain caused by peptic ulcers might radiate to the lower back, pain caused by ulcers in the esophagus are more likely to radiate mid-back.

Ulcer pains usually don’t last very long.

Typical symptoms:

  • abdominal pain
  • bloating
  • heartburn
  • nausea

Typical trigger foods:

Hiatal hernia

Sometimes hiatal hernia pain can radiate to the back. Both symptoms and triggers are similar to acid reflux.

Typical symptoms:

  • heartburn
  • sour taste in the throat
  • bloating
  • stomach pain
  • pain in the esophagus

Typical trigger foods:

Other risk factors of back pain after eating

How to prevent back pain after eating?

If you are experiencing back pain after eating, you should always consult with your doctor, as this might indicate a serious problem in the digestive system!

Simple lifestyle changes can come a long way in preventing back pain after eating. Of course, you’ll need to avoid trigger foods like peppermint, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and the ones we’ve mentioned above as they may worsen your symptoms.

Some useful tips that should be fairly easy to add to your daily routine:

  • Keeping a food diary helps you identify foods that trigger you.
  • It’s also wise that you avoid eating large meals that distend your stomach.
  • Try eating smaller meals 4 or 5 times per day.
  • Eat while upright and maintain the same position for a few minutes.
  • Also, don’t engage in vigorous activities immediately after eating. Instead, give your stomach time to empty.
  • You should avoid wearing tight clothing that puts pressure on your abdomen.
  • You can relieve reflux symptoms by increasing your saliva production. After eating, one can chew sugarless gum to promote salivation which neutralizes acids and washes them down back into your stomach. However, stay away from peppermint flavors.
  • Avoid going to bed immediately after eating.
  • Elevate your head when sleeping with blocks under your bed’s leg or a foam wedge under the mattress. But, don’t use pillows as that bends your torso which increases abdominal pressure.
  • Help your digestion with probiotics. You can take them in their natural forms – e.g. buttermilk or yogurt – or in tablets.

Final thoughts

Back pain after eating is usually a referred pain, caused by a digestive problem.

Such digestive problems are more likely to cause stomach or chest pain. Pain after eating radiating to the back usually indicates that your digestive problem should be diagnosed by a medical professional.

Sharp, excruciating pain usually requires immediate medical attention. In such cases don’t wait for the pain to go away, call a doctor right away!