Low Back Pain and Nutrition: The Hidden Connection
Lower back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010. In the United States, it is one of the most common reasons for missed work and is the 2nd most common reason for visits to a doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper respiratory infections. It is estimated that at any given time, 31 million people experience low back pain and fully one-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain each year. We spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain – and that’s just the costs more easily identified.
As a chiropractor for over 35 years, I have seen thousands of cases of low back pain (LBP). Many times patients have experienced some trauma or injury that caused the pain but at other times the cause is harder to pinpoint. Many cases of LBP are “insidious” in nature, meaning there is no injury or trauma and no underlying disease like osteoarthritis or cancer. Most cases of LBP involve misalignment of the spinal bones in the lower back. When a spinal bone becomes misaligned, it can irritate the nerves, the discs, the cartilage or muscles and ligaments that support the spine and this can cause pain. The chiropractic adjustment is very effective in most cases of relieving LBP when there is misalignment present.
What role does nutrition play in LBP?
First of all, let me say that LBP is NOT caused by a deficiency of opioids, pain meds, or muscle relaxers! But even short term use of pain meds and drugs can cause nutritional deficiencies that DO play a role in LBP. The meds may block the pain and give relief but at the same time, the body has to handle those meds and that can deplete the body of nutrients, especially if the diet is less than optimal.
Consider the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.). As a rule, we eat too much sugar, too many carbs, too many grains, and too much processed foods filled with chemicals, preservatives and fake foods. One result of this poor diet is mineral deficiencies. We either don’t get the minerals in the food or we are unable to digest the minerals that we do eat. A body deficient in minerals, especially magnesium, potassium and calcium may show weakness in the muscles and bones and this can play a direct role in LBP.
Another problem with the S.A.D. is the lack of fiber it contains. One of the most common complaints I hear in my nutrition practice is constipation. The sad fact is, most people don’t poop as much as they should. As bodily wastes slowly make the way through the small and large intestines, toxins build up. These toxins irritate the colon and a somatic (body) reflex triggers pain in the low back. I’ve seen many cases of LBP clear up once we solve the constipation problem.
Between each spinal bone is a disc. The disc is mostly cartilage with a gel-like center that cushions the bones and allows for flexibility. There are several factors that play a role in a healthy disc. One is proper minerals as discussed above. Another is proper hydration. I am amazed at how many people do not drink enough water! The disc needs water (not soda, coffee, tea, sports drinks or alcohol) in order to stay properly hydrated. Also, the S.A.D. is chronically low in whole-food sources of the Vitamin C complex which includes not only vitamin C but also the bioflavonoids, rutins and other factors. Long-term dehydration coupled with deficiency of whole food vitamin C complex leads to dry, cracked discs that can rupture and cause excruciating pain. Anytime a patient has been told he has a “ruptured disc”, there is almost always an underlying nutritional component.
These are just a few of the ways that poor nutrition contributes to LBP. I find that even chronic, difficult LBP cases will start to respond once we address the nutritional component. And conversely, many of the difficult cases will never get better until the nutritional component is handled.
Do you suffer with low back pain? Have you tried everything with little or no results? Are you worried that it’s going to get worse and then where will you be? Are you ready to do something about it? If so, call the office to schedule your FREE consultation to see how we can help. Nutrition Response Testing® is a safe, effective method of analyzing the body for underlying organ weakness and nutritional deficiencies that play a part in poor health including low back pain. It works with people of all ages for men and women. To learn more, call the office at 501-842-1004. Discover how good you can feel!