You are what you eat—and so is your back. Back pain is on the rise. Experts estimate a whopping 80 percent of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. That’s bad news for those with back aches.
Back pain may result from several factors, including injury, arthritis, or stress. Generally speaking, back pain is tricky to resolve because it comes back again and again. These recurring episodes can be frustrating, leading to even more stress and pain. This vicious cycle is often hard to break.
If you’ve tried every remedy in the books, it may be time to go back to the basics. You can boost your back health and prevent pain by focusing on one simple thing: your diet. Let’s look at the recipe for back pain prevention.
Causes of Back Pain
The human back is a complex system of muscles and ligaments along the spinal column. Like all muscles, you can strain or tear them, causing muscle weakness and instability in the affected area. You may also feel pain in other parts of your body. In general, back pain may be caused by:
- Excessive physical exercise
- Lifting heavy objects
- Bad posture
- Being overweight or obese
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Serious conditions such as arthritis, herniated discs, infections, or tumors
You should consult a doctor if you’re experiencing recurring back pain to rule out any serious conditions.
A back-friendly diet comes down to what you should and shouldn’t put on your plate. The best diet for those suffering from back pain is an anti-inflammatory diet, modeled after the Mediterranean diet. This diet is plant-rich and focuses on natural, fresh foods.
The Seven Pillars of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- Drink lots of water: Staying hydrated is extremely important for keeping your back moving and feeling great. Generally speaking, the rule is 8×8, meaning 8 glasses of 8 oz. per day. By drinking lots of water, your body will run smoothly and your spinal discs will stay hydrated and flexible.
- Cut processed foods: Processed foods are full of icky ingredients that increase inflammation throughout the body. If you’re looking to reduce back pain, you should cut processed foods, especially those that include MSG, nitrites, and aspartame. Common processed foods to look out for include chips, cookies, pasta, rice, white bread, sugary drinks, and fried foods. You should also minimize consumption of caffeine and alcohol to prevent inflammation. Also, if you like to eat out, remember that fast food is almost always processed food. Try a healthy restaurant option instead of hitting the drive-thru.
- Incorporate omega-3 fatty acids: A super compound with anti-inflammatory properties, omega-3 boosts your anti-inflammatory response and is great for reducing pain. You can find omega-3 in fish, nuts, and omega-3 supplements.
- Fill your plate with vitamin-dense organic food: Antioxidants are typically found in green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and kale. The greener the better, but you can also go for colorful fruit such as blueberries, blackberries, cherries, and strawberries. Fresh fruits and vegetables are especially good for you.
- Fiber up: Fiber is a great anti-inflammatory for reducing back pain. Constipation can cause pain in the lower back, so eating a diet high in fiber can help. You have several options for fibrous foods, including beans, popcorn, nuts, berries, and crunchy vegetables. You can also get fiber from wheat sources, such as whole wheat, brown rice, bran, and oatmeal.
- Use olive oil: Rich in oleocanthal, olive oil is a great option for reducing inflammation. Use it for cooking, sauces, and dressings.
- Nix the refined salt: While salt is critical to human health, refined salt causes high blood pressure and fuels inflammation. Instead, make sure to choose sea salt or Himalayan pink salt
How to Prevent Back Pain with Supplements
Supplements are a key part of an anti-inflammatory diet. These few key supplements in particular are helpful for reducing back pain:
Calcium. Essential for bone health, calcium can help boost bone mass along your spine and improve your overall back health. A low-dose calcium supplement can help keep your spine in good shape.
Capsaicin. You may have heard of capsaicin, which comes from cayenne chili peppers. It’s great for relieving pain, including lower back pain.
White willow bark. White willow bark is known as a natural pain reliever due to its anti-inflammatory properties. In particular, it’s effective for lower back pain and osteoarthritic conditions. Recent studies show that 39 percent of patients suffering from back pain were pain-free after taking white willow bark for four weeks.
Devil’s claw. Devil’s claw can help reduce inflammation, and new evidence suggests that devil’s claw is effective for treating lower back pain.
Turmeric and fenugreek seed. Turmeric (curcumin) blocks inflammatory cytokines and enzymes, including cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), the target of celecoxib (Celebrex). MediHerb Turmeric Forte supports a healthy inflammation response with a combination of turmeric rhizome and fenugreek seed extracts. These enhance absorption and improve bioavailability of curcuminoids, the active constituents of turmeric.
Be sure to talk to your health care practitioner before starting any supplements. An expert will know of any possible side effects or contraindications for your situation.
According to the American Chiropractic Association, there are several strategies you can integrate into a holistic plan for preventing back pain in the future.
Regular exercise and warm-ups: A regular workout routine that involves warm-up exercises is key for preventing back pain. It helps strengthen your muscles, including your lower back and abs, which you need for lifting. The stronger these muscles are, the easier your back will move and carry weight. Exercise also improves range of motion by keeping your muscles and joints loose and flexible. Walking, swimming, Pilates, and yoga are good activities for flexibility. Warm-up and cool-down exercises are also essential because they prepare your muscles for exercise and ensure they won’t stiffen or strain. Finally, working out can help you shed some pounds. Your back will have an easier time carrying your body weight around if you lighten the load. Also consider the benefit of mindfulness and meditation.
Posture and sleep position: Your sleep position can make a difference in back pain by giving your muscles a chance to restore overnight. Sleeping on your side or back is best, but avoid stomach sleeping as it can put strain on your muscles. Be sure to get eight hours of sleep on a firm, comfortable mattress in a restful environment. In addition, watch your posture. Avoid slouching, hunching your shoulders up, and leaning over too much. Try to keep your body aligned while sitting, standing, and lying down.
No heavy lifting: Avoid lifting heavy objects, especially by yourself. If you need to lift something, use your knees, legs, and abdominals for best results. Be sure to hold the object close to you and squat instead of bending over. This engages your leg muscles and abdominals instead of twisting your back muscles.
Practical fashion: Even your fashion choices can twist or strain your back. Avoid wearing high heels as they can put excess pressure on your back. Tight clothes may restrict the movement and circulation in your back. Also make sure your backpack is never too heavy and the weight is evenly distributed.
Comfortable workspace: At the office, be sure your chair has good back support. Sit all the way back in your chair without slouching or poking out your chin. Take lots of break and check your posture throughout the day. When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to slouch or keep your back tense.
These tips for preventing back pain should go a long way toward keeping your back healthy and strong, now and in the future. However, if you continue to suffer from recurring back pain, you may need to visit a chiropractor for further treatment. A professional chiropractor or chiropractic clinic can give you a customized diagnosis, care plan, and therapy to relieve muscular tension and pain.
Take control of your back health by following an anti-inflammatory diet, using pain-relieving supplements, and creating a healthy lifestyle. We hope these tips will give you positive results for your back health!
Images: Main image from Unsplash, food and supplements on the spoon images from Pixabay, woman stretching image from Pexels.