Some conditions can cause upper abdominal pain and back pain. According to the Merck Manuals website, although most abdominal pain is not serious or life-threatening, severe abdominal pain that manifests suddenly usually indicates a serious underlying health condition. In some cases, abdominal pain radiates to the back--which may also be a sign that a serious medical problem exists. In other cases, the pain comes from a structure or organ outside the abdominal cavity, such as the heart.
A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, can cause upper abdominal pain and back pain. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute or NHLBI--a division of the National Institutes of Health--a heart attack occurs when blood flow to a portion of the heart muscle becomes obstructed. Without sufficient blood flow, the affected section of heart muscle may die due to lack of oxygen. The NHLBI says the most common cause of heart attack is coronary artery disease, in which plaque--a combination of fatty and fibrous substances--accumulates on the inner walls of a coronary artery or an artery that delivers blood to the heart. Plaque accumulation can lead to blood clots that obstruct the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart. According to the NHLBI, common signs and symptoms associated with a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort; pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach; and shortness of breath.
The Mayo Clinic website says ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that's characterized by chronic inflammation of the gut, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Ulcerative colitis can significantly affect a person's activities of daily living and quality of life, and in some cases, it can result in life-threatening complications. Ulcerative colitis usually targets the innermost lining of the large intestine or colon, in which it forms continuous stretches of inflamed tissue. Common signs and symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis include abdominal cramping that improves after a bowel movement, fever, weight loss and tenesmus or rectal pain. One possible complication associated with ulcerative colitis is low back pain, due to accompanying arthritis in the sacroiliac joints. The sacroiliac joints connect the hip bones or innominates with the sacrum or base of the spine.
Peptic ulcers can cause upper abdominal pain and back pain. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases or NIDDK--a division of the National Institutes of Health--peptic ulcers are sores on the inner lining of the stomach and small intestine. Peptic ulcers are a common cause of abdominal discomfort: Approximately 500,000 Americans develop one every year. The NIDDK says that although stress and spicy foods don't cause peptic ulcers, as it was once believed, they can exacerbate or worsen an existing peptic ulcer. The most common causes of peptic ulcers are Helicobacter pylori bacterial infection and the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS. Common signs and symptoms associated with peptic ulcers include abdominal pain, weight loss, loss of appetite, bloating, nausea and vomiting. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, peptic ulcer-related pain can radiate to the back or the chest, behind the breastbone.