Are you one of the millions of people who suffer from lower back pain? If so, you’re not alone! And if you want a natural way to deal with the pain, there are foods for lower back pain relief.
Sixty to 85% of us will experience lower back pain at some point in our lives (1). Lower back pain can happen for a variety of reasons, including injury, poor posture, or straining your back muscles. And dealing with it can be a real pain too!
But did you know what you eat can help you feel better? It’s true!
Certain types of foods can ease inflammation, keep your bones healthy, and even help you manage your weight. And all of these benefits can improve lower back pain.
So let’s discuss the best foods to eat for lower back pain relief. We’ll also cover foods to steer clear of, so you can feel better naturally.
Anti-inflammatory Foods for Lower Back Pain Relief
Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection. However, when inflammation continues after the injury or illness is gone, you experience chronic inflammation. This can lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and other joint diseases (2).
What is a pro-inflammatory diet you ask? One that includes highly processed, high-fat, high-sugar foods and beverages.
How can we counteract this chronic inflammation? Reduce our consumption of pro-inflammatory foods, and instead focus on an anti-inflammatory diet.
Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Incorporate into Your Diet for Lower Back Pain Relief
An overall healthy diet that is nutrient dense appears to be beneficial in managing chronic pain (5). Some foods may have particularly good effects on inflammation and pain, including those listed below.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. Which are best? The ones you’ll eat! However, the following appear to have strong anti-inflammatory effects (according to Harvard Health):
Pro-tip: Need to get more fruits and veggies in your diet? Smoothies are a great way to do it!
Whole grains are high in fiber and anti-inflammatory compounds. They also have a better effect on blood sugar levels than highly processed grains, which may mean less inflammation (6). Focus on whole grain bread, pasta, and cereals.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, and anti-inflammatory compounds. Many nuts and seeds are also good sources of protein and fiber.
Examples of some that seem to have great anti-inflammatory effects? Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds (6).
Salmon, mackerel, sardines and other fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids. Intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish is associated with decreased pain (7).
A high intake of red meat is linked with higher levels of inflammation. Replacing some red meat in your diet with fatty fish may help decrease inflammation and lower back pain (6).
Olive oil contains anti-inflammatory compounds, including oleocanthal, which has pain-reducing effects similar to ibuprofen (8). Using olive oil in place of other vegetable oils and fat in your diet may reduce lower back pain (6)
Herbs & Spices
Many herbs and spices have anti-inflammatory properties and are useful in an overall healthy diet, especially as a replacement for salt. Turmeric and ginger in particular can also help decrease feelings of pain (6).
Pro-tip: Find out about some other healthful herbs and spices here!
Green tea is high in catechins, a substance that helps protect cells from damage. The main catechin in green tea (Epigallocatechin -3-gallate (EGCG) has anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce pain (9).
Dark chocolate has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. One study found that it reduced fatigue which led to pain relief (10).
Foods That Contain Vitamin D
Vitamin D has a role in bone health, inflammation, pain, and sleep (11). All of these are important in reducing our risk of chronic back pain. How do you make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D? Include plenty of the following Vitamin D-rich foods in your diet:
Foods That Help Maintain a Healthy Weight
Carrying excess weight increases your risk of inflammation and incidence of low back pain. Thus, it’s important to manage or reduce your weight if necessary. To do this, follow a healthy eating plan like the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet.
Both of these plant-based diets discourage the consumption of processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats. Instead, they promote the intake of anti-inflammatory foods and may help you manage your weight.
Both eating plans include:
These diets, and other similar healthful eating patterns, include many of the anti-inflammatory and Vitamin D foods listed above. Further, they can help lower blood pressure, protect against heart disease, and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Other Ways to Treat and Manage Low Back Pain
In addition to making some dietary changes, there are other ways to help deal with low back pain. These include:
Regular physical activity may reduce your risk of chronic low back pain (12). Find an activity that you enjoy and keep at it! Mind-body type exercises, like Qigong, tai chi, or yoga may be especially useful in combating low back pain (1).
Pro-tip: In addition to combating lower back pain directly, yoga can also help you decrease stress and get better sleep. So yoga is a triple threat to lower back pain!
Get Quality Sleep
Good sleep hygiene is important for managing pain and may improve mood, energy, and focus. This includes a comfortable bed, a cool, dark, and quiet room, and minimizing bright light and intense activities near bedtime.
Getting some exposure to sunlight in the morning and throughout the day is also important. It signals to your body when to be alert and when to be settling down to rest (1).
We all need ways to deal with stress. Mindfulness activities like meditation and various deep breathing techniques appear to help reduce stress and decrease back pain (1).
Dependence on alcohol or tobacco appears to be linked to a higher incidence of low back pain (1). Get help to quit if you need it.
Foods For Lower Back Pain Relief: A Summary
If you’re dealing with lower back pain, dietary changes can be a natural and effective way to find relief. Anti-inflammatory foods and foods rich in Vitamin D can reduce pain and support overall well-being.
Following a well-balanced diet can help with weight loss, boost your immune system, and help with pain management. By focusing on the right foods, you can see improvements in your back pain as well as your overall health!
Remember to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian before making any significant dietary changes. With the right approach, you can bid farewell to lower back pain and enjoy a healthier, more pain-free life.
Kate is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and certified yoga instructor with a Master’s in Public Health. She loves to share what she has learned about nutrition and yoga to help people live healthier, more balanced lives. When not working on this blog or teaching yoga, Kate is usually spending time with family and friends or reading a good book.