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can acid reflux cause back pain

Can Acid Reflux Cause Back Pain?

Have you ever experienced a sharp pain in your back that seemed unrelated to your daily physical activities?

What if we tell you that this back pain might be more connected to your digestive system than you think?

Join us, as we help you find the answer to a common inquiry: “Can acid reflux cause back pain?”.

And along with understanding acid reflux back pain in today’s article, we will also shed light on GERD induced back pain, as well as the back pain caused by indigestion.

What is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux, commonly referred to as heartburn, occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest. This happens when the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle at the base of the esophagus, relaxes abnormally or weakens.

Common Symptoms of Acid Reflux

Being able to recognize the symptoms of acid reflux is quite essential when it comes to the identification, early intervention, and effective management for this condition.

Listed below are a few of the common symptoms of acid reflux, giving you an insight into the subtle indicators that your body may be sending.

  1. Heartburn:

The hallmark symptom of acid reflux is heartburn – it is a burning sensation that radiates from the chest to the throat. This discomfort inducing symptom usually occurs once you’ve taken your meal, or even during the night when lying down.

  1. Regurgitation:

Regurgitation is the involuntary return of the contents of stomach to the mouth, which is accompanied by a sour or bitter taste. This symptom can be alarming and may occur both during as well as after meals.

  1. Chest Pain:

The chest pain associated with acid reflux is not to be confused with that of a heart attack. Acid reflux chest pain is often described as a burning discomfort right beneath the breastbone.

Being able to distinguish between cardiac and acid reflux-related chest pain is critical for seeking the right medical attention.

  1. Difficulty Swallowing:

Acid reflux can lead to a sensation of a lump in the throat or difficulty swallowing, known as dysphagia. This symptom arises due to the irritation of the esophagus, blocking the smooth passage of food.

  1. Chronic Cough:

A persistent cough that seems unrelated to respiratory issues may be a silent symptom of acid reflux. Stomach acid irritating the esophagus is what triggers coughing – this makes it imperative to consider acid reflux in the evaluation of chronic coughs.

  1. Asthma-Like Symptoms:

In some cases, acid reflux can worsen asthma symptoms or even mimic the condition. Wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness may be associated with acid reflux, highlighting the importance of a comprehensive approach to respiratory and digestive health.

  1. Excessive Salivation

Excessive salivation, also known as water brash, is an often overlooked symptom of acid reflux. Increased saliva production occurs as a protective response to stomach acid irritating the esophagus.

Can Acid Reflux Cause Back Pain?

This connection may come as a surprise, but yes, acid reflux caused back pain is a very real thing. 

Manifesting itself beyond the chest, acid reflux can cause pain in back. When stomach acid irritates the esophagus, it can start radiating to the back, leading to discomfort and pain.

Understanding this relationship between acid reflux and back pain is essential for an accurate diagnosis and opting for an appropriate treatment.

How to Treat Acid Reflux Back Pain?

Acid reflux caused back pain ends up disrupting the daily life and compromising our well-being. Fortunately, being able to identify the cause and having an understanding of the range of available treatment options can empower individuals to restore their health.

Here are the available treatment options for acid reflux upper back pain:

  1. Lifestyle Modifications
  • Dietary Adjustments: Adjusting your diet can significantly alleviate acid reflux back pain. Opt for smaller, more frequent meals and avoid trigger foods such as spicy, greasy, and acidic items.
  • Posture and Sleeping Habits: Maintain an upright posture after meals to prevent acid from regurgitating into the esophagus. Elevating the head of your bed by 6 to 8 inches can discourage stomach acid from flowing back during sleep.
  • Weight Management: Excess weight places added pressure on the abdomen, contributing to acid reflux. Shedding pounds through a healthy diet and regular exercise can alleviate acid reflux back pain.
  1. Over-the-Counter Medications
  • Antacids: These swiftly neutralize stomach acid, offering immediate relief from heartburn and acid reflux back pain. While effective for short-term relief, antacids are not a long-term solution.
  • H2 Blockers (Histamine-2 Receptor Antagonists): Reducing the production of stomach acid, H2 blockers like ranitidine and famotidine can provide sustained relief from acid reflux back pain when taken before meals.
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): A more potent option, PPIs like omeprazole and esomeprazole suppress stomach acid production, promoting healing of the esophagus.
  1. Prescription Medications
  • Prokinetics: These medications enhance esophageal motility and accelerate stomach emptying, reducing the likelihood of acid reflux, and the consequent back pain caused by it.
  • Foam Barrier Medications: A relatively new addition, foam barrier medications create a protective layer in the stomach, preventing acid reflux. These medications are often used in combination with other medications.
  1. Lifestyle Changes
  • Quit Smoking: Smoking worsens the acid reflux and hinders the healing process. Quitting smoking is a crucial step towards managing symptoms effectively.
  • Limit Alcohol Intake: Alcohol can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, contributing to acid reflux. Moderating or eliminating alcohol consumption can alleviate symptoms.
  • Stress Management Techniques: Chronic stress can make the acid reflux worse. Incorporating stress-reducing practices such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing can contribute to overall symptom improvement.
  1. Surgical Intervention
  • In cases where medications and lifestyle changes are not enough, surgical options can be considered in such cases. Fundoplication is a common surgical procedure that involves wrapping the top of the stomach around the lower esophagus to prevent reflux.

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a chronic and severe form of acid reflux. It only occurs when acid reflux becomes frequent, leading to complications such as esophageal inflammation, ulcers, and strictures.

Difference Between GERD and Acid Reflux

While acid reflux is a common occurrence, GERD is a chronic condition that requires medical attention. Acid reflux is a symptom of GERD, and individuals experiencing frequent heartburn or regurgitation should seek professional evaluation for a proper diagnosis.

Home Remedies for Acid Reflux

Managing acid reflux at home is possible with these simple remedies:

  • Avoid lying flat right after eating: Allow time for digestion before lying down.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking can worsen acid reflux symptoms.
  • Aloe Juice: Soothes irritation and inflammation in the esophagus.
  • Watermelon: High water content helps neutralize stomach acid.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Aids digestion and prevents acid reflux.
  • Baking Soda: Neutralizes stomach acid but should be used sparingly.
  • Banana: Alkaline properties reduce acidity.
  • Ginger Tea: Calms the digestive system.
  • Eat at a Slower Pace: Minimizes swallowing air, reducing acid reflux.
  • Eat Dinner Early: Gives the body more time to digest before bedtime.

Worst Foods for Acid Reflux

Avoid exacerbating acid reflux by limiting intake of:

  • Spicy foods
  • Fatty or greasy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Mint
  • Acidic foods and drinks such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, garlic, and onions
  • Carbonated drinks such as soda or seltzer
  • Caffeine based drinks such as coffee and tea
  • Alcohol

When Should I See a Doctor?

If someone experiences the symptoms of acid reflux constantly, this makes it crucial for them to consult a healthcare professional.
Also, immediate medical attention is required if there is blood seen in your vomit or stool, along with unintentional weight loss, and difficulty swallowing.


Understanding the relation between acid reflux and back pain gives you the leverage to take control of your health. 

At Manhattan Medical Arts, we specialize in comprehensive care, providing personalized solutions for digestive health. 

Don’t let acid reflux hold you back – consult our experts for a healthier life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can GERD Cause Back Pain?

Yes, GERD can cause back pain. Stomach acid refluxing into the esophagus may irritate nerves in the upper back, leading to discomfort.

What Can I Drink for Acid Reflux?

Water is the best choice for acid reflux. Herbal teas like chamomile or ginger tea may also help. Avoid citrus juices, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol, as they can trigger acid reflux.

How Do You Get Rid of Acid Reflux Fast?

To alleviate acid reflux quickly, try:

Taking antacids for immediate relief.
Drinking water to neutralize stomach acid.
Chewing gum to stimulate saliva production, which can neutralize acid.

How Is Acid Reflux Back Pain Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of acid reflux back pain involves a combination of medical history, symptoms evaluation, and diagnostic tests. The tests may include endoscopy, pH monitoring, and imaging studies to assess the severity of acid reflux and its impact on the esophagus.

Can Indigestion Cause Back Pain Between Shoulder Blades?

Yes, indigestion can cause back pain between the shoulder blades. The discomfort may be a result of irritation in the esophagus due to acid reflux or referred pain from the stomach or gallbladder.

– Disclaimer –

This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 12/01/2023

Learn more about our editorial process.

  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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