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9 Foods That Prevent Joint Inflammation in Your Back

Published April 18, 2017
| Written By BackerNation Editorial Staff   | Medically Reviewed by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

It's Monday. You wake up, grab a coffee, and maybe a donut to begin your week. You work hard Monday through Friday so when the weekend finally arrives, you’re ready to relax. You earned it after all. Then on Saturday, maybe you want to decompress with a glass of wine or two followed by a “cheat day” where you can actually eat what you want. And when Monday arrives, you have to do it all over again while in severe back pain. Life isn't easy, but with proper nutrition and diet, you may be able to actually manage that pain by controlling what you put into your body.

Sustaining a well-balanced diet aids in strengthening your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. Sciatica and back pain is actually heightened by obesity. Therefore, it’s necessary to trim that unwanted belly fat to help improve how you feel and to reduce your back pain.

Second generation chiropractor, pain expert and author of 3 Weeks to a Better Back, Dr. Todd Sinett confirms the link between consuming large amounts of inflammatory sugary foods and how it can actually prolong your back pain in addition to nerve and muscle discomfort.

"I want you to realize and pay attention to how you feel after you eat certain foods," said Sinett.

Do you ever notice that after eating sugary foods you may feel sluggish, unmotivated and in more back pain than before? This isn’t a coincidence.

“Major dietary causes of back pain, include excessive caffeine, alcohol, and sugar–all things that increase cortisol levels,” Sinett explained. “When there's excess cortisol in the body, connective tissue can get inflamed, causing pain.”

Processed foods, fast foods, as well as foods high in saturated fats like red meats, butter, and cheese help fuel inflammation. This in turn makes these foods fuel for your back pain. They may taste delicious at the time you are putting them into your mouth, but they do more harm than good.

"Left unchecked, inflammation will run rampant through your body, causing all kinds of problems, including low-back pain," Michael Perry M.D., said, co-founder of Laser Spine Institute and head medical director. “That’s why creating an anti-inflammatory diet with foods that help you maintain good nutrition is important to managing back pain.”

Now that you know what not to eat, you may be thinking, “So what foods can I actually eat to help decrease my back pain levels?”

Luckily, in today's modern world, there are substitutes for almost anything.

Examples of Foods that Cause Inflammation and Should be Avoided:

Inflammatory Foods

Healthy Alternatives

White bread
Whole wheat bread
White pasta
Whole wheat pasta
White rice
Brown rice
Hydrogenated oil/butter
Olive/coconut oil
Club soda
Sugary Drinks
Water with lemon

Enhance your bland salad with dark leafy greens, raw walnuts, avocados and a homemade house vinaigrette. Make cooking something to look forward to again.

Chronic back pain sufferers need a high-protein, low-carb and anti-inflammatory diet. Healthy food can still be fun so you don't have to forgo the taste in order to maintain a well-balanced regime. Get creative! 

Simply remember: The greener the better (Kale, spinach, and broccoli).

Below you will find a comprehensive list of the top 9 foods you should consider adding to your diet as a chronic back pain sufferer. We did the research so you don't have to.

Positive Effects
Anti-inflammatory enzymes help heal the body
Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, acai berries, cranberries, and blackberries - antioxidants maintain inflammation, strengthen your immune system
Green Tea
Detoxifies toxic compounds, combats DNA from aging wear and tear
Grass Fed Beef
When grass fed, beef sustains very little saturated fat, rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA); aids in metabolizing fat and losing weight
Cold Water Fish
Tuna, herring, salmon, mackerel, and sardines - Omega 3 fatty acids, reduces pain/ inflammation levels, rich vitamin D; helps calcium absorption, keeps strong bones
Increases metabolism, relieves muscle spasms, decreases blood viscosity, better ability to heal and lowers inflammation
Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, helps circulatory system, contains powerful anti-inflammatory
Turmeric/ Ginger
Contains same mechanisms used in prescribed painkillers, assists in relieving nausea, indigestion, and heart irregularities - a strong anti-inflammatory food, may reduce swelling and helps ease pain associated with back/ spine pain
Olive Oil
Decreases ailments related to inflammation, such as degenerative joint diseases or diabetes - contains similar compounds to ibuprofen

"Deeply colored fruits and vegetables are a key part of an anti-inflammatory diet," Dana Greene, MS, RD, LDN, an expert nutritionist of Brookline, MA said. “If you’re looking for foods that reduce back pain and are loaded with nutrition, try carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, cherries, berries, grapes and red wine, pomegranate and watermelon.” 

“Herbs and spices, including basil, cinnamon, ginger, rosemary, garlic, curcumin, onions, oregano and turmeric tend to be especially rich in anti-inflammatory agents, so season generously. Also, drink healthy herb teas and true teas (green, oolong, and white).”

Consuming the items listed in this article will provide you with, anti-inflammatory power that can help relieve your back pain and improve overall flexibility.

Other healthy foods to consider include nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, and Brazil nuts), lean proteins such as chicken and turkey, beans, and even cocoa like dark chocolate, which has antioxidant properties. Eating healthy doesn't have to taste bad.

As the Greek physician and the “father of modern medicine” Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.”

Back Pain Nutrition Cheat Sheet - Infographic:

Click Here for Full Resolution

This infographic displays what your diet should look like to reduce inflammation.

Updated: February 20, 2020

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