Low back pain is a common medical complaint, affecting as many as 65 million American adults at any given time. About 16 million Americans suffer from low back pain that’s chronic, which is pain that persists or recurs and may interfere with daily activities.
David Berkower, DO, of Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation in Pembroke Pines, Florida, is an expert in treating back pain. In addition to using advanced medical treatment options, Dr. Berkower also helps patients make lifestyle adjustments — such as lose weight — to help relieve back pain.
If you’re one of the millions of people suffering from low back pain, here’s how those extra pounds could be contributing to your discomfort.
Why low back pain occurs
Your lower back (or lumbar spine) is extremely flexible, and it’s composed of joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, nerves, and other components, all working together. If even one component is injured or irritated, you can wind up with significant back pain.
Some low back pain can occur as a result of falls, car accidents, or other traumatic injuries. But often, chronic pain is associated with repetitive use of the lower back, such as by doing lots of bending or lifting for a job. These activities can strain your back muscles and joints, which can cause inflammation.
Because your lower back is such a complex structure, even simple things can take their toll on your lumbar spine. Wearing poorly fitting shoes, sleeping on an unsupportive surface, or carrying a heavy bag or backpack can cause or contribute to painful symptoms — and so can your diet.
How diet plays a role in low back pain
Your diet can contribute to back pain in two primary ways: by adding weight, which can increase back strain, and by causing inflammation.
Excess weight and back strain
About three-quarters of Americans are overweight or obese, according to the CDC, and a lot of that weight is carried in the belly area. When your tummy is tubby, those extra pounds can exert an abnormal amount of strain on your lower back.
Not only can extra pounds make your muscles ache, but they can also pull your spine out of alignment, which can cause disc problems and nerve conditions, such as sciatica. Limiting sugary foods, avoiding unhealthy fats, and “right-sizing” your portions may be able to help you slim down and ease weight-related back pain.
As a bonus, losing excess weight can make it easier to stay active, which can help you maintain a healthier weight. Plus, it can help decrease other weight-related health risks, too.
Foods and inflammation
A lot of chronic pain is associated with inflammation, especially in the joints. Unfortunately, some foods can cause inflammation, including some popular snack foods. Avoiding “pro-inflammatory” foods could help reduce pain associated with inflammation in your joints or around your nerves. Those foods include:
- Most baked goods
- Potato chips and other processed snacks
- Deli meat and cured meats
- Fast food
- Nearly all pre-packaged or “convenience” foods
- Fried foods
- Sodas and other sugary beverages
Eliminating or at least drastically limiting these foods is part of an anti-inflammatory diet.
You can also help by filling up on foods shown to help decrease inflammation, including:
- Olive oil
- Fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, and sardines
- Leafy green vegetables, including most lettuces
- Orange and red vegetables
- Deeply colored fruits and berries
- Nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
The popular Mediterranean diet features lots of these foods, and it’s been associated with an array of health benefits.
Get relief for your back
Optimizing your diet can help with back pain and other aches and pains, too. For many patients with low back pain, diet and other lifestyle changes play important roles in a comprehensive, customized treatment plan aimed at relieving pain and preventing it in the future.
To learn how Dr. Berkower can customize a treatment plan for your back issues, call 954-430-9972 or book an appointment online with Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation today.