Just as certain foods can make pain worse, there are others with a beneficial effect on ailing backs and spines. What a person consumes has been shown to impact pain levels as much as over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen. You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that the beneficial foods aren’t all Brussels sprouts and kale, either! (Although those are indeed some of the pain-relieving dishes on the menu.)
However, please note that it can’t entirely replace the care and support of a back pain specialist. The right foods can help alleviate the symptoms, but they will not cure the underlying causes. Even if the pain doesn’t persist, you will still need to contact a doctor to make sure your spine is still functioning healthily.
Grapes, Cherries, and Berries
Red grapes contain a compound called resveratrol, known to block enzymes that contribute to tissue degeneration. Lab experiments have shown that resveratrol protects against painful cartilage damage. In addition to red grapes, you’ll find this beneficial substance in cranberries and blueberries, which also contain powerful antioxidants.
Even better news – drinking red wine is good for your back! The form of resveratrol found in a glass of red wine is more easily absorbed by the body than the one found in raw grapes, so in addition to the heart benefits doctors have been touting for years, now there’s one more reason to enjoy a glass of red in the evening.
Cherries are high in antioxidants called anthocyanin, which reduces inflammation. A recent study by the US Department of Agriculture found that people who ate 45 Bing cherries per day for 28 days saw a significant reduction in pain and inflammation. While consuming that many cherries daily for an extended period of time would be difficult and likely cause undesirable intestinal effects, consuming cherry juice and taking tart cherry pills has been demonstrated to have a similar benefit. Anthocyanin is also found in strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
In addition to adding a delightful flavor to food and beverages, ginger boasts many health benefits. It’s long been used as a digestive aid, and its anti-inflammatory properties are beneficial for pain relief and prevention. Ginger is found in many Asian dishes, and can also be added to tea, lemonade, or even cocktails for a piquant punch to your taste buds. If you aren’t fond of the flavor, the benefits of consuming ginger can also be achieved by taking a supplement. You’ll have to consume 2-3 teaspoons of fresh ginger per day to experience significant back pain relief benefits.
A study by Oklahoma State University found that patients who consumed 40 grams of soy protein per day were able to cut their pain medication in half, thanks to isoflavones, a plant hormone with anti-inflammatory properties. Soy milk, tofu, and edamame are all tasty ways to reach a goal of 40 grams of soy protein per day. It takes a few weeks of daily consumption to start noticing an improvement in back pain, so be patient.
Turmeric is a seasoning common in Thai and Indian cuisine (it’s what makes curry powder yellow) and is also frequently taken in pill form as a dietary supplement. This natural anti-inflammatory has been shown to slow or stop joint damage from arthritis. It works by inhibiting a protein called NF-kB, which causes an inflammatory response in the joints.
You may have noticed that many over-the-counter pain relievers (such as Excedrin) contain caffeine. That is because caffeine enhances the effect of painkillers. However, new information from a University of Georgia study shows that it may also have pain-relieving qualities of its own, even when consumed without painkillers. Moderate doses of caffeine were shown to reduce post-workout muscular pain by about 50 percent. In addition, people who consumed one or two cups of coffee before working out were able to exercise longer and harder, thanks to the energy boost and beneficial effects on the muscles.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon, snapper, halibut, mackerel, and sardines offer relief of back discomfort and inflammation caused by arthritis, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s disease. A trial performed by the University of Pittsburgh reported that 60 percent of participants experienced an improvement in their neck and back pain after taking fish oil supplements for 75 days, and 59 percent reported such improvement that they stopped taking their prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS. Omega-3 fatty acids can be consumed through food or by taking a fish oil supplement, though eating the fish itself is more effective. If you are taking blood thinners, check with your doctor before starting fish oil supplements or adding frequent meals of fatty fish to your diet. To see the benefits of fish oil, shoot for 2-4 meals per week of salmon, bass, trout, or other fatty fish.
DFW Spinal Care
Remember, a switch in your dietary habits won’t serve as a cure-all for the issues you experience. Think of these foods as supplements to assist rather than the ultimate solutions. MedWell Solutions connects patients suffering from back pain with specialists who can help them with their spinal issues. These specialists also offer digital services for patients to get more involved in their care, working together to achieve the best possible outcome. Please contact us today to get started.