Poor nutrition is linked to many health issues like obesity, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. Oh, and it might make your back pain worse, according to a 2020 population-based analysis published in Pain Reports.
At LiveWell Pain Management, our physical medicine and interventional pain management physician, Dr. Nora Taha, takes an integrative approach to managing conditions like back pain. We know prescription medications can only help so much.
Here, we talk about the connection between your diet and your back pain and the changes you can make to improve both.
The diet and pain connection
Everyone feels pain in their own way. However, many people with chronic pain have high levels of proinflammatory cytokines in their bodies.
Proinflammatory cytokines are immune-system proteins that are part of your body’s healing process responsible for the initial inflammation that occurs following an injury. High levels of these proinflammatory proteins may explain how an acute back injury turns into chronic back pain.
Ultra-processed foods like fast food, refined grains, and processed meats (hot dogs, chicken nuggets) also trigger an increase in proinflammatory cytokines in your body. If you have back pain and eat more processed foods than whole foods, you may inadvertently worsen your inflammation and pain.
Eating to improve back pain
People who eat more fruits, whole grains, and dairy are less likely to suffer from chronic back pain, according to researchers. These foods contain nutrients that reduce inflammation and boost overall health.
When eating to reduce back pain, you want to fill your diet with a variety of nutrient-rich foods from all the food groups, such as:
- Colorful fruits and vegetables (blueberries, strawberries, broccoli, red onions)
- 100% whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat)
- Lean sources of protein (poultry, fish, beans)
- Healthy fats (vegetable oils, nuts, seeds)
- Dairy foods or plant-based sources of calcium (low-fat milk, kale, fortified plant milk)
You also want to make sure you get good food sources of omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, tuna, flax seed, and walnuts. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats (they must come from the foods you eat) that reduce inflammation, boost heart health, and benefit your brain.
Other lifestyle interventions
Diet is one of the main lifestyle interventions we use to help you regain control over your pain and your life. We customize plans based on your individual needs, goals, and preferences. We also provide recommendations for nutritional supplements to boost your health and wellness.
Getting regular exercise helps reduce back pain as well. Physical activity triggers the release of your body’s natural painkillers and feel-good chemicals. Exercise reduces stress too.
Eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and finding healthy outlets to relieve stress can make a world of difference when it comes to managing your back pain.
If you’re looking for a more holistic approach to managing your back pain, we can help. Call our office in Elmwood, New Jersey, today or request an appointment online to learn more.