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These Foods May Help Alleviate Back Pain

Does diet affect your back pain? Some foods cause inflammation which may exacerbate a sore back. Likewise, a healthy, protein-rich diet can strengthen the bones in your body. 

A few tweaks for more nutritional eating can make a significant difference if you experience chronic back pain. Fortunately, there are some foods that relieve back pain, so you can return to the activities you enjoy doing the most.

Prevalence of Chronic Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common primary care and emergency complaints among patients. Nearly 39% of Americans experience spinal or non-specific pain, meaning there’s no known cause. Many times, doctors attribute non-specific pain to chronic inflammation.

Other types of back pain are considered degenerative — osteoarthritis of the joints and spine — or oncologic, generated by compressed nerves or bone marrow cancers. Some people also get spinal infections or soft tissue abscesses, contributing to pain.

Chronic back pain accounts for $200 billion annually for pain management — a primary reason for lost work productivity and workman’s compensation. According to Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, the United States loses about 83 work days yearly for back pain cases.

The numbers are staggering, but what if there was a way to relieve your pain with food for improved quality of life? 

5 Foods That Can Help Back Pain

Certain foods work wonders on the body, offering fast-acting relief for various conditions. Regarding back pain, an anti-inflammatory diet can ease pain and help with weight management to take pressure off your spine. Here are five foods that can help back pain.

Bold-Colored Vegetables

Spinach, carrots, kale, beets and cherries are some of the most vibrant and nutrient-dense produce for pain relief. 

Kale, in particular, is classified as a “superfood,” which provides 10% or more of the daily value of 17 essential nutrients. It also has very high anti-inflammatory compounds and helps diversify gut microbiota. 

Research has shown the correlation between gut microbes and chronic back pain, likely through inflammation. In one study, the gut bacteria Roseburia was found in 86% of patients with back pain, while Coprococcus was found in 43%. Eating nutritious, bold-colored produce can significantly improve your gut health.


Pineapple contains bromelain — a digestive enzyme that reduces inflammation and even hinders cancer development. 

In one study examining rats, bromelain inhibited inflammatory concentrations of prostaglandin in the sciatic nerve and brain. The findings suggested that bromelain could positively affect neuropathic pain, making it one of the most healing foods that can help back pain.

Eat a bowl of pineapple as a midday snack, throw it on the grill or make a pineapple salsa for fish tacos to incorporate more of it into your diet. 


Fatty fish contain ample omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation. Medical research has indicated that omega-3s can reduce lower back pain in adults and prevent intervertebral disc degeneration.

Salmon is a primary source of omega-3s and an essential food for a healthy diet, helping promote weight loss for limited spinal pressure. 

Salmon and other lean proteins are also crucial for bone health and injury or surgical recovery. It’s also essential for older adults to consume to maintain muscle mass and prevent degenerative conditions.


Start your day with a bowl of blueberries if you want to fight inflammation for back pain. All berries have dramatic anti-inflammatory effects that benefit you and can relieve chronic pain.

Cranberries are excellent at flushing toxins from the body that typically cause swelling. The antioxidants in strawberries also help fight free radicals and protect tissues and cells from inflammatory damage.

Opt for berries throughout the day — a healthy snack alternative to refined carbs and sweets. Add them to yogurt, oatmeal or salads to reap their benefits. 

Herbs and Spices

People have relied on herbs and spices as medicine for centuries. As such, it’s only natural that they would help with chronic back pain. 

Turmeric and ginger are highly likely to offer relief from back pain. Turmeric contains curcumin, which limits pain in the nervous system. It also manages cytokines — inflammatory proteins in the body. Likewise, ginger reduces prostaglandin concentrations, a common cause of arthritic pain. 

Sip on ginger tea or begin adding turmeric to meals. Although seasonings may not cure acute osteoarthritis, sciatic nerve damage or degenerative discs, they can boost your natural immuno-response to inflammation and swelling. 

Food to Avoid for Back Pain Relief

Dairy products are likely a root cause of chronic back pain. Although many are taught calcium contributes to stronger bones, dairy is one of the biggest culprits of bodily inflammation. 

Likewise, sugary foods are equally bad for you if you have pain or tenderness. Like dairy, sugar —including artificial sweeteners — can induce inflammatory reactions. A high-sugar, high-fat diet can also lead to excessive weight gain. Carrying excess pounds strains your muscles, spine and discs and can lead to degenerative disc disorders or a pinched sciatic nerve.

Red meat is also not the healthiest option for back pain. Beef, veal, lamb and others contain N-Glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc), which is highly inflammatory and even behind several human cancers. Studies have shown that people have difficulty synthesizing Neu5Gc.

Other foods to avoid include refined grains, butter, vegetable oil, soda, sugary energy or sports drinks, alcohol and caffeine. 

Relieve Back Pain With an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is an excellent way to control chronic back pain. While it may not eliminate your pain entirely, you should receive enough relief to get back to a more active lifestyle with less discomfort.

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