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Can Ovarian Cysts Cause Back Pain?

woman suffering from back pain

Written by Dr. Derek Larsen DC

Last Updated on April 15, 2024

Women’s bodies are complex and wondrous, often working like a well-oiled machine. However, sometimes unexpected glitches occur, like the formation of ovarian cysts. These fluid-filled sacs that develop in or on the ovaries might sound alarming, but they are quite common and, in most cases, harmless. Nonetheless, when these cysts grow larger or face complications, they can induce pain and discomfort, even radiating to the back. Through this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of ovarian cysts, exploring their causes, types, potential risks, and their correlation with back pain. Whether you suspect you have an ovarian cyst or are just curious, we’ve got you covered. Dive in and equip yourself with the knowledge you need to understand and address this common condition.

What Causes Ovarian Cysts?

The internal female reproductive system is made up of the uterus, and two fallopian tubes with two ovaries on either side of the body. The ovaries are where a woman’s eggs are stored and developed, with one being released down the fallopian tube each menstrual cycle.

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form on or in the ovaries. Most resolve on their own with no medical treatment, you might not even know they were ever there to begin with. Larger cysts, or those that become twisted or burst though can cause some severe pain.

Most ovarian cysts form naturally as a result of your normal menstrual cycle, these are known as functional cysts. Functional cysts rarely cause pain or other symptoms. Dermoid cysts, Cystadenoma, and Endometrioma are all types of cysts that can create more advanced medical issues and pain.

Risk factors for cysts include

  • Hormonal problems
  • Pregnancy
  • Endometriosis
  • Severe pelvic infection
  • History of ovarian cysts

Warning Signs of Ovarian Cysts

While many ovarian cysts go undetected, there are some things you can look out for. Persistent pelvic pain or abdominal pain, especially during your menstrual cycle is one warning sign. Other symptoms include irregular periods, difficulty conceiving, bloating, nausea and vomiting, and pain during sexual intercourse.

Unfortunately, there is no way to fully prevent ovarian cysts so it’s best to have routine checkups with your medical doctor which include a pelvic exam, and watch for the warning signs.

Types of Ovarian Cysts

There are multiple types of ovarian cysts, two of which are defined under the functional cyst category and rarely cause issues. The other 3 mentioned above though can carry more severe symptoms.

  • Functional cysts – also known as corpus luteum cysts, are the most common and usually come with no pain or symptoms. They are simple ovarian cysts that develop around your follicular cycle and usually resolve on their own.
  • Dermoid Cysts – These types of cyst form using germ cells. They can contain tissue like hair, skin, or even teeth.
  • Cystadenoma – Formed on the outside of the ovary, they are filled with watery material. These are known for growing very large.
  • Endometrioma – The cells we usually see in the uterus can grow and multiply outside the uterine tissue. When this occurs and attaches to your ovary it is known as endometrioma or “chocolate cysts”.

Both dermoid cysts and cystadenomas can become very large. Large ovarian cysts run the risk of twisting your ovary, a painful condition known as ovarian torsion. Ovarian torsion is a serious condition that can reduce or completely stop blood flow to the affected ovary and cause sudden pain.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is another condition that can cause many cysts to develop on or in the ovaries. Due to the number of cysts being formed, this condition can have serious consequences for your reproductive health. Menstrual cycles with PCOS might be extremely random, short, or non-existent.

PCOS carries similar signs and symptoms of other ovarian cyst-related issues with the added symptom of increased androgen. Androgen is a hormone, which in high amounts can cause an excess in facial and body hair.

Treatment Options

In most cases where ovarian cysts do not self resolve ovarian cysts can need medical treatment. At Happy Family Chiropractic we often refer patients to other providers when we find conditions that are outside of our scope of practice. In the case of ovarian cysts,  We would refer you to an MD or naturopath to evaluate your condition and recommend the care you need. If your condition is causing pain in the low back because of cramping or tightness in the low back there are things we can do to aid in the relief of that pain. However if the root cause of your symptoms is ovarian cysts we would definitely want to have that addressed by a medical doctor. 

Can Ovarian Cysts Cause Lower Back Pain?

Lower back pain is a common symptom with all forms of ovarian cysts. Due to the location of your ovaries, the most common places for pain are your back, your pelvic region, and your lower abdomen. Pain can range from a dull ache to severe pelvic pain or severe pain in general.

You are more likely to feel lower back pain related to cysts the larger they grow, if a cyst ruptures, or if ovarian torsion occurs. The lower back pain associated with cysts is described as dull and achy. Sharp or sudden pain is the most common complaint after a cyst ruptures.

Chiropractic Care and Ovarian Cysts

Due to the back pain associated with these types of cysts, you might be wondering if chiropractic care can help.

Though we can not say if chiropractic care will get rid of your cysts, we can help alleviate pain. Chiropractors have training in realigning the spine and the nerves which run through your spine and affect a whole host of bodily functions.

Hormone regulation can occur when pressure is taken off nerves and can help with issues. Proper stretching and in-office care can also relieve pain and help with fatigue and quality of life.

Home Remedies for Cyst-Related Back Pain

Unless you have a serious issue caused by your cyst, most doctors will monitor them until they disappear on their own. There are many home remedies you can try if you are having dull back pain related to your cysts.

Another way to alleviate pain is with a heating pad. Placing the pad on your lower back or abdomen can ease inflammation and reduce pain.

Stretching is another activity you can do to help with back pain. Doctors, or chiropractors, can recommend stretches that can be done at home to help. If you are doing a stretch and your back pain increases then it is best not to continue that movement.

When To See A Doctor

Though most cysts go away on their own with minimal issues, there is always the risk of more severe conditions. If you have been diagnosed with any form of ovarian cysts and develop these symptoms, please seek prompt medical attention.

Symptoms Include

  • Severe lower abdominal pain, or lower back pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Rapid pulse
  • Quickened breathing

These can be signs that your cyst has ruptured or that ovarian torsion has occurred.

Severe Issues Related to Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts tend to carry no risk and go away on their own. As we’ve read from above though, there are cases when ovarian cysts carry some dire consequences.

Fertility can be affected when cysts form due to PCOS or Endometriosis. Large cysts carry the risk of rupturing or causing ovarian torsion. These are conditions that will require medical intervention whether that is medication or surgery

Ruptured Cyst

A cyst might rupture causing sudden, severe pain. Most of the time these don’t require treatment but in severe cases need surgery. In rare cases when a cyst is large enough and ruptures there can be heavy internal bleeding that requires surgery to resolve.

Common symptoms of internal bleeding include feeling faint, dizzy, and rapid breathing.

Ovarian Torsion

Ovarian torsion occurs when the ovary becomes twisted. Though not always related to cysts, this can occur if you have a large cyst. Sudden severe pain, a rapid heartbeat, and sudden nausea are symptoms you might see.

When your ovary becomes twisted blood flow is cut off. Because of this, emergency surgery is needed in order to avoid tissue death and retain the use of the ovary.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cysts do not cause cancer, however, ovarian cancer can cause cysts. Conditions like PCOS and Endometriosis carry an increased risk of developing uterine or ovarian cancer. Having a family history of either of those types of cancers might also tell doctors to look at any cysts you develop more closely.

A simple ultrasound detecting a cyst can not diagnose cancer. If cancer is suspected doctors will order additional testing to make sure. Remember that if you don’t have either of the conditions mentioned above or a family history then most cysts are benign.

If cancer is detected then doctors will do a minimally invasive surgery to remove the cancerous cyst. In severe cases, the surgical removal of one or both ovaries might be needed.

Final Takeaways

Ovarian cysts are typically nothing to worry about and you can have them without even knowing. That being said, larger cysts or those related to other issues are known to cause back pain. Thankfully there are plenty of ways to treat and relieve symptoms.

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