When your back hurts, you start replaying the last movements you made to figure out what caused it: carrying groceries, gardening, or slumping over your computer. While any of those activities can certainly lead to back pain, you may be overlooking the role your diet plays in your spine health.
As an award-winning, double board-certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Patrick McNulty offers the most advanced treatments and procedures for all types of back pain, but sometimes the answer is simpler than that. At McNulty Spine in Las vegas and Henderson, Nevada, we’re committed to your overall wellness and want you to recognize the critical link between your diet and your spinal health. Here’s what you need to know.
Food and inflammation
Inflammation causes pain wherever it shows up. At first, it’s a welcome sign that your body is sending healing resources to the site of an injury or to fight off pathogens. But when it lingers, inflammation does more harm than good, by damaging joints, contributing to fatigue, and causing pain — including back pain.
Chronic inflammation stems from medical conditions like diabetes and arthritis, but certain foods may also be part of the problem. Here are some of the worst offenders:
- Trans fats (especially artificial trans fat like margarine)
- Vegetable oils
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Refined carbs (think pastries, bread, and soft drinks)
- Processed meats
Try cutting these out of your diet to see if their inflammatory properties are contributing to your back pain.
While you’re at it, mix in a few of the foods known to fight inflammation, such as:
- Sweet potatoes
Essentially, the darker colored fruits and vegetables are the best anti-inflammatories. Avocados and nuts can help, too, as can herbs like turmeric, ginger, and garlic.
Calcium can keep back pain at bay
The 1980s milk campaign slogan — Milk, it does a body good — was onto something. The calcium in milk is essential for strong, healthy bones. If you’re deficient, it can lead to osteopenia or osteoporosis, which weaken your vertebrae and cause back pain.
Most adults under age 70 need about 1,000 mg of calcium per day. The recommended amount increases to about 1,200-1,300 mg for older adults and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.
An 8-ounce glass of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium, but you can get the mineral from broccoli and other greens, as well as certain fish and fortified cereals.
Keep in mind that more isn’t necessarily better, and too much calcium can cause problems like constipation and kidney stones. You want just enough to ensure your back bones stay strong and healthy.
Obesity and back pain
It’s no shocker that a diet high in calories and fats leads to obesity, but you may not realize that obesity can cause back pain. The more you weigh, the more your body slumps forward, tilts your pelvis, strains your spine, and causes lower back pain.
Every extra pound contributes to the problem, but the good news is that every pound you lose starts to alleviate the strain and pain. Changing your diet to shed extra weight may alleviate your backache.
How we treat back pain
Back pain comes in many forms and can stem from either acute injuries, degenerative conditions, or chronic diseases. There’s no single treatment that addresses them all, but there is one physician who can. Dr. McNulty offers effective pain management treatments for a wide range of spine conditions, including kyphosis, scoliosis, sciatica, neuropathy, herniated discs, and more.
Before resorting to surgical intervention, Dr. McNulty uses less invasive approaches first. You may respond well to an injection of corticosteroids or a nerve block to ease your pain, or you may be a good candidate for a spinal cord stimulator to disrupt the pain signals between your nerves and brain.
Whichever treatment works for you, even if it’s surgery, your diet plays an important role in reducing your painful inflammation and keeping your musculoskeletal system strong and supportive.
If you have back pain, don’t suffer any longer. Schedule a consultation with Dr McNulty to get an accurate diagnosis, the right treatment, and sound advice about proper nutrition that supports your back health.