Can Ovarian Cysts Be the Cause of Lower Back Pain?

A woman in jeans and a yellow shirt is sitting on a bit. She is leaned over and holding her stomach with a grimace on her face. She appears to be in pain.

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop around the ovaries, usually when a woman is ovulating.

Most ovarian cysts resolve on their own once the ovulation period is over. These cysts don’t usually cause any pain or discomfort.

In some cases, cysts may enlarge and start to press on the spine or abdominal tissue. This can contribute to pain in the pelvis, discomfort in the lower back, and other symptoms.

Treatment options for cysts include taking pain relievers, using birth control pills, and having surgery. Speak to your healthcare provider about the best option for you.

Ovarian cysts will affect 10 in 100 women in their lifetime. These growths normally occur when a woman is ovulating and, in most cases, resolve without treatment.

However, cysts may behave abnormally and enlarge, or become infected. Not only does this put them at risk for bursting, but it also means that the cysts are likely to start causing pain.

Cysts that become painful may also be a sign of an underlying medical condition like endometriosis.

Knowing what to look out for and when to see a doctor is essential for managing and treating cysts.

This article takes a closer look at the symptoms and causes of ovarian cysts, their connection to back pain, and the best treatment options for your condition.

What Are Ovarian Cysts?

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop around the ovaries, usually during ovulation.

This condition normally doesn’t cause any symptoms, and the growths tend to resolve without treatment once the ovulation period is over.

There are three types of ovarian cysts that can develop because of a number of factors. Let’s take a look at what they are.

A diagram drawing of the female reproductive system.

Functional cysts

Functional cysts are the most common type of growth, affecting between 8-10% of women who menstruate.

These simple ovarian cysts can either be follicular or corpus luteum growths and develop when something goes wrong during the menstrual cycle.

Follicular ovarian cysts form when eggs aren’t released by follicles in the ovaries, while corpus luteum cysts develop when the eggs are released but don’t dissolve.

These cysts are normally harmless and noncancerous. They also tend to resolve on their own without causing severe symptoms.


Cystadenomas are also noncancerous tumors that contain a watery, mucus-like fluid. These can look similar to functional cysts but continue to grow over time.

Functional cysts, on the other hand, disappear once the menstrual cycle is over.

Cystadenomas can become very large and need to be surgically removed to minimize the risk of more severe medical complications.

Endometriomas (chocolate cysts)

These are blood-filled cystic lesions that develop because of endometriosis — a condition where endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus.

Endometriomas are likely to cause acute pelvic pain and can affect fertility.

The presence of these cysts often indicates a severe stage of endometriosis and requires immediate medical attention to remove them.

What Causes Ovarian Cysts?

Although cysts are a normal part of the menstrual and ovulation cycle, they may also indicate underlying medical conditions.

Not only do these conditions cause cysts to become painful, but they can also affect your ability to fall pregnant and alter your hormone levels.

Pelvic infections

Infections like abscesses in the pelvis can also cause a cyst to develop.

Infected cysts may have an increased risk of bursting and triggering sepsis—a potentially life-threatening immune response to harmful bacteria.

People who suffer from an infected ovarian cyst often require hospitalization and surgery to drain and remove it.


This is a condition that causes the tissue that lines the womb to grow outside of the uterus. Growths can develop in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, and vagina.

Endometriosis may cause blood-filled cysts to form in the tissue that can cause severe pelvic pain. These growths can also affect fertility.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a condition that causes a number of small, harmless cysts to develop all over the ovaries.

These cysts often contain undeveloped eggs that the body is unable to release when a woman menstruates. This can contribute to irregular periods.

Women with PCOS may also have high levels of androgen hormones that can contribute to excess hair on the body or more frequent acne breakouts.

What Are the Symptoms and Warning Signs of Ovarian Cysts?

Although most common ovarian cysts don’t usually cause symptoms, there are a few things to look out for in case of underlying medical conditions.

Ovarian cysts typically cause lower abdominal pain that:

  • Has a mild intensity
  • Feels dull
  • Comes and goes

Other symptoms and warning signs of ovarian cysts normally include:

  • A feeling of pressure in the pelvic area
  • Breast tenderness
  • Bloating
  • A painful or irregular menstrual cycle
  • Pain during sex or while urinating
  • Spotting between periods
  • Needing to use the bathroom more often
  • Constipation

Persistent pelvic pain is usually the most common sign that many ovarian cysts are present, especially if it feels sharp and sudden.

If you experience any of the abovementioned symptoms, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Key Point: What Are The Possible Complications of an Ovarian Cyst?

In rare cases, a cyst can rupture or burst and cause sharp, sudden pain. This may cause excessive blood loss that can lead to low blood pressure.

Ruptured cysts can also cause the fallopian tubes to twist, blocking the blood supply to the ovaries. This leads to severe pain, nausea, and vomiting.

When a cyst ruptures, it may require emergency surgery to be removed or fixed.

How Are Ovarian Cysts and Back Pain Connected?

Unexplained lower back pain may be an indication that you have large ovarian cysts. Larger cysts tend to start pressing against the organs, abdominal tissue, and spine, which causes pain.

This pain often feels dull and sore, like muscle aches. If a cyst bursts or ruptures, the pain may become sharper and more intense.

Although nearly 44.5% of women experience lower back pain because of cysts, large growths are rare. Most cysts only grow up to an inch wide and resolve without causing symptoms.

A woman in a dark pink t-shirt is holding both hands on her lower back in discomfort.

How is an Ovarian Cyst Treated?

Before seeking treatment, you will need to determine what kind of cysts you have, if any. These tests should be performed by a medical professional and may include:

  • Ultrasound
  • MRI
  • Pregnancy test
  • Blood test
  • Biopsy

Your treatment will depend on the type of cysts you have, your age, and your general health. Most cysts tend to resolve without treatment, but it’s advised to keep an eye on your symptoms.

Let’s take a look at the different treatment options for ovarian cysts.

Home remedies

Home remedies can be an effective way to reduce common symptoms associated with cysts and larger growths.

These treatments are usually aimed at cases that aren’t severe and don’t cause extreme feelings of pain or discomfort. They may include:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medication: Pain relief medication like Tylenol or Advil can help alleviate discomfort associated with larger cysts.
  • Apply a warm compress: Placing a heating pad on the sore area may help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Stretching: Incorporating gentle stretches into your routine can also be effective in reducing back pain. It’s recommended that you ask your doctor, which stretches you can do to avoid making the problem worse.
A woman sits in a shirt and pajama pants with a hot compress up against her stomach.

Medical treatments

For more severe cases, or if you have an underlying condition, your healthcare provider will likely recommend professional medical treatments. These may include:

  • Birth control pills: This medication prevents the body from ovulating during the menstrual cycle, decreasing the chances of developing cysts. For this reason, birth control pills can be used to manage acute symptoms and reduce the risk of cysts becoming enlarged or infected.
  • Surgery: Cysts may require minimally invasive surgery if they don’t resolve on their own, cause pain, or appear unusual on the imaging tests. Your healthcare provider may also recommend surgery if they suspect that the cyst is cancerous. Surgeries for removing ovarian cysts may include laser procedures (laparotomy) or small incisions on the stomach to reach the pelvic area (laparoscopy).
Key Point: Can Ovarian Cysts Be Prevented?

There is currently no way to fully prevent ovarian cysts if you have a normal menstrual cycle and are ovulating every month.

However, doctors can prescribe birth control to help manage severe symptoms and lower the risk of cysts getting worse.

Are You Worried That Your Lower Back Pain is Caused by Cysts?

If you’re experiencing or are worried about any of the symptoms we’ve covered in this article, you can make a telehealth appointment to meet with a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner. Simply head over to to schedule your first video visit.

Dr. Banita Sehgal

Dr. Sehgal received her medical degree from Western University in Los Angeles and trained as Chief Resident at White Memorial Medical Center, also in Los Angeles. She’s been practicing medicine for 20+ years and has a specific interest in women’s health.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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