Back pain has reached epidemic proportions in developed countries. In Australia, it is estimated that up to 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives, and 10% will experience significant disability as a result. With the highest prevalence during middle-age, back pain has become a major cause of absenteeism at work and a significant economical burden on the society.

If you are suffering from lower back pain, a number of interventions may make a positive difference. You might for instance improve your sitting posture at work, increase your level of exercise/mobility and seek some manual therapy. But improving your diet may also be very beneficial. Why is that?

Let’s start with the most straightforward aspect – weight. With every extra kilogram of body weight, the pressure in the joints of your lower back increase. This makes overweight people more susceptible to back injuries and degenerative changes. Hence, maintaining a healthy weight is a good way to reduce your risk of developing lower back pain.

Another important aspect is the relationship between diet and inflammation, as inflammation is one of the essential factors in back pain. It is now well recognised that certain foods help control inflammation, while others promote it. In broad terms, you should favour fruits and vegetables, favour fish over red meat and limit your consumption of refined carbohydrates (e.g. sugar, white rice, pasta). Spices like ginger and turmeric also have a proven anti-inflammatory effect, and fish-oil supplements are beneficial too. Besides the impact on inflammation, we should also add that some foods such as green leafy vegetables, being rich in calcium and vitamin K, promote bone health, and thus spinal health.

Something very significant and much less recognised is that detrimental tensions in the spine can be the reflection of abnormal tensions in the abdomen. For example, a poor diet may cause some irritation and tension in the bowel, which will be reflected as physical restrictions and excessive stress in the spinal joints. Over time, this may lead to lower back dysfunction and pain. In addition to mechanical connections, other mechanisms such as venous congestion in the abdomen affecting venous drainage from the spine may be involved in lower back problems.

As an Osteopath, I see a lot of patients with acute or chronic lower back pain, and often find a significant contributing tension in their abdomen. Dietary changes will often make a positive difference for these patients.


Originally written by Nicolas Roost for LiveBeingFit (