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Enlarged Heart as the Cause of Ongoing Back Pain

written by: Stephanie M. Lucas • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 8/20/2010

Chronic back pain can result from an enlarged heart. Find out how an enlarged heart can cause low back pain, and how to get it treated.

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    Link Between Ongoing Back Pain and Enlarged Heart

    Could ongoing back pain and enlarged heart have anything to do with one another? While they may be very separate medical conditions, they could also be more connected than you think. Although rare, it is not unheard of for an enlarged heart to be the cause of chronic back pain. The American Chronic Pain Association reports that low back pain is the fifth most common reason for a doctor visit in the United States. With chronic back pain being such a common ailment, it's important to know how back pain could be caused by an enlarged heart.

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    Common Symptoms of an Enlarged Heart

    An enlarged heart, medically known as cardiomyopathy, occurs when the heart muscle is weakened and enlarged. Cardiomyopathy makes it difficult for the heart to pump and circulate blood to the body. There are three main types of cardiomyopathy, all with different treatment courses. Symptoms of cardiomyopathy vary in frequency and severity. Often, symptoms will increase as the disease progresses.

    • There may be no signs or symptoms in the early stages of the disease
    • Breathlessness with exertion
    • Breathlessness while resting
    • Bloating of the abdomen (due to fluid buildup)
    • Fatigue
    • Irregular heartbeats
    • Rapid, pounding or flutter heartbeats
    • Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting
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    How An Enlarged Heart Can Cause Back Pain

    Cardiomyopathy can lead to a symptoms of angina pectoris. Angina pectoris is a medical term used to describe pain or discomfort that is caused by coronary heart disease. This pain can be experienced in the chest, back, jaw, shoulder or arms. Ongoing back pain caused by angina pectoris could potentially be the result of an enlarged heart.

    If symptoms of an enlarged heart are experienced in conjunction with lower back pain, it is important to consult a physician to determine if the two are related.

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    Other Causes of Chronic Back Pain

    While an enlarged heart is one potential cause of back pain, there are a number of other possible causes. Most back pain can be effectively treated with physical therapy and pain management. A physical exam with a physician and proper diagnostic testing will help determine causes of chronic pain.

    • Muscle Strain
    • Back Injury
    • Overuse
    • Poor posture
    • Pressure on nerve roots affecting the back
    • Muscle disorders
    • Cancer
    • Compression Fracture
    • Ankylosing Spondylitis
    • Spinal Stenosis
    • Disk Herniation
    • Sciatica
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    Treatment

    Back pain that is determined to be caused by an enlarged heart should be alleviated by treatment for the enlarged heart. Since the symptoms of pain in the back are caused by cardiomyopathy, treatment of the disease should lessen and/or eliminate the back pain. Cardiomyopathy is often treated with medications and/or surgical devices. In severe cases, a heart transplant may be needed.

    If treatment for cardiomyopathy improves symptoms associated with the enlarged heart but does not improve the ongoing back pain, the back pain may have another cause. A physician should be consulted with concerns of chronic back pain.

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    Sources Cited

    Penny Cowan, "Consumers' Guide: Practice Guidelines for Low Back Pain." American Chroinc Pain Association

    "Angina Pectoris." American Heart Association

    "Cardiomyopathy." Mayo Clinic

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