Ditch the Discomfort: Foods That May Worsen Back Pain

Ditch the Discomfort: Foods That May Worsen Back Pain


Back pain is a common issue, with 80% of adults experiencing it. Often we think it’s unavoidable, but what we eat can make a difference. Foods that raise inflammation levels and strain muscles can worsen lower back pain. We can reduce discomfort naturally by avoiding these food types and opting for anti-inflammatory foods.

Leafy greens and fruits like blueberries and raspberries are good choices. This article will explore which foods may be bad for inflammation and back pain.

High-Fat Foods

Battling chronic or sporadic back pain? Certain food choices can make it worse. Look out for high-fat foods! These stand out as main offenders. Learn which foods to avoid and alternatives that can help.

Fried Foods

French fries, fried chicken, fish and chips – all fried foods are a regular part of diets. However, they are high in fat, which can lead to back pain flare-ups.

Studies show that fatty foods, like fried meats, can cause more inflammation in the body. This puts more strain on your muscles, discs, joints, ligaments, tendons and other parts of the spine. Resulting in painful or uncomfortable back episodes.

To reduce the chances of this, avoid fried foods. Instead, eat fresh grilled fish or lean grilled chicken. These provide a healthier option, without the burden on your spine and posture.

Processed Meats

Processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs and deli meats have a lot of saturated fats. These are linked to inflammation. Also, they have added preservatives. Many of these chemical additives contain unhealthy hormones and toxins, which your body doesn’t like.

If you must eat processed meats, read labels. Find products with fewer preservatives and chemicals. It’s better to try leaner cuts of unprocessed meat or switch to healthy options such as beans or fish.

High-Fat Dairy Products

High-fat dairy products, including milk, cheese, ice cream, and desserts, can be harmful to back health. Harvard Health says consuming too much of these can worsen conditions like obesity, which weakens the muscles that support the spine. Additionally, Northwestern University’s studies suggest that people with osteoarthritis-induced back pain should limit high fat foods to reduce pain. Small increases in load can make joint pain much worse.

Creams and cheeses are full of saturated fat – about 6 to 8 grams per serving. Therefore, it’s wise to switch to low-fat options like skim milk and nonfat cream cheese. Pay attention to yogurt flavors and types of butter you buy. When shopping, look for labels with no added sugar and at least 4% milk fat for cream cheese products if you can’t avoid these items.

Refined Sugars

Refined sugars are processed and missing essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. They are added to many packaged food items, drinks, and desserts to make them more desirable. Unfortunately, they can cause health issues. Back pain is one of these! Let’s explore how this can happen and what we can do to stop it.


Candy may be a tasty bite, but it’s one of the worst refined sugars for back pain. Unhappily, candy is often packed full of fats, artificial flavors, and too much sugar. And, many have high fructose corn syrup. Eating foods with added sugars and high fructose corn syrup has been linked to greater chances of obesity and chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

In general, candy can cause back pain. It can make you gain weight, or act as an inflammatory agent in the body. A good rule is to avoid candy unless you’re eating it as a part of a balanced meal plan or an occasional snack. A small piece of dark chocolate or an ounce of gummy bears every now and then is okay. But, too much candy or eating it daily is not suggested due to its inflammatory effects and associations with diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Soft Drinks

Soft drinks are packed full of refined sugar. It’s found in many processed foods, like canned tea, pre-made smoothies, sweetened dairy drinks and sports drinks. It’s important to remember that natural sugars from fruit are not refined and provide vital nutrients.

Refined sugars are made from carbohydrates, such as cornstarch or white flour. They’re broken down into smaller glucose and fructose particles. Sadly, they offer no nutritional value apart from energy. Common sources of refined sugars are:

  • Soda
  • Energy drinks
  • Candy
  • Desserts
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Bakery goods
  • Condiments
  • Processed food products

Regular consumption of these sugary treats has been linked to chronic health conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, and back pain.

White Bread

White bread is a popular choice for carbs, but it’s made with refined flour. This means no fiber and a burst of energy followed by a crash. Refined carbs are known to cause inflammation, leading to back pain.

Other refined carbs include: rice, white pasta, crackers, and cookies. These cause blood sugar spikes, so it’s best to go for whole wheat or whole grain versions. These provide fiber for slower digestion. The fiber makes you feel fuller longer, and helps reduce blood sugar spikes, reducing inflammation and back pain.


Caffeine is a popular stimulant. It’s in coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks. Moderate amounts can be helpful – boosting cognitive performance and alertness. But bewaretoo much caffeine can cause back pain. Let’s look at the potential risks of over-consumption and its effect on back pain.


Coffee and caffeine can have an effect on back pain. Jitters and insomnia can cause chronic fatigue and anxiety, which can lead to more pain. Some people are “caffeine-sensitive”, and even small doses of caffeine can make their back pain worse.

If you’re a regular coffee drinker, more than three to four cups a day, then you should watch your consumption. Before changing your caffeine intake to manage pain, consult with your doctor. There are other sources of energy, like tea or sugar-free energy drinks, for those seeking an alternative.


Tea carries some caffeine. Black tea, most popular in the U.S., has between 14-60 mg per cup. Too much could increase back discomfort. Green tea has high antioxidants and lower caffeine (24-45 mg). White tea has 6-60 mg, while oolong is 12-55 mg. Herbal teas could have trace amounts of caffeine.

To reduce intake, switch types and brands. Decaffeinated coffee is also an option.

Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are a hit with people. They have lots of caffeine. This can seem like a good idea to help with back pain. But, it’s not! You get a huge rush but then you crash, which can make the pain worse.

Instead of energy drinks, try tea or fruit juices. Go for sugar-free varieties too, this will help your body in the long run.


Alcohol is widely found in households, but it can make back pain worse. Dehydration from drinking can cause muscle tension and pain. Plus, alcoholic drinks are usually high in sugar, which can cause inflammation and add to the discomfort.

Let’s explore other foods that might have a similar effect:


Beer is popular in many places. It contains 5-12% Alcohol by Volume (ABV). Drinking it in moderation can reduce stress and offer health benefits. But too much beer increases the risk of liver damage, obesity, and depression.

People with back pain should be careful when drinking beer. Beer increases uric acid levels, which can irritate nerve roots and cause back pain. Hops in beer contain compounds that can be anti-inflammatory, but in high doses, they can cause inflammation. This can worsen back pain.

Excessive beer consumption can also increase the risk of degenerative disc disease. Moderate beer drinking can help relax the body, but if over-relaxed, it can cause musculoskeletal strains due to overstretching or misalignment. Posture and lifestyle choices can also contribute to back pain.


Wine is a type of alcoholic beverage. It’s made from the fermentation of grapes or other fruits. It has been used to celebrate special occasions, accompany food, and even for medicinal reasons. Wine typically has 10 to 20 percent alcohol which can cause back pain.

Some wine has extra sugar. This can increase inflammation and pain for those with acute or chronic backache. Tannins are in wine, too. They cause dehydration and painful effects like queasiness, headaches, and stomach aches.

To avoid making your backache worse, it’s best to:

  • Have one three-ounce glass with food and lots of water between drinks.
  • Avoid high-sugar wines.
  • Opt for dryer options like Riesling instead of sugary blends like Moscato.
  • This will help metabolize the alcohol and keep your body hydrated. This is important for physical and mental health.


Alcohol can worsen neck and back pain. Spirits like whiskey, rum, tequila and vodka may be worse than beer and wine. Darker hard liquors contain more “congeners“. Congeners are ingredients produced during fermentation. They give drinks flavor, color and aroma. Studies suggest congers may cause nausea and stomach issues.

Alcohol is a depressant. It can cause coordination problems, slower reaction times, and blurred vision. All of this can trigger or worsen back pain. It’s best to avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol for better health.


Acidic foods, like citrus and fatty meats, can affect our backs poorly. Sugary and processed food can worsen back pain too. To reduce inflammation, eating Omega 3-rich foods or having smaller meals can help with chronic back pain.

No single solution is the answer. Monitor your diet and keep a healthy lifestyle to make positive changes. Be aware of how your body reacts to food, and making dietary changes might be the first step to relieving back pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What foods should I avoid if I have back pain?

A: Foods that are high in inflammation-causing agents, such as processed and fried foods, sugary drinks, and refined carbohydrates, should be avoided.

Q: Can dairy aggravate back pain?

A: Dairy products like cheese and milk contain casein protein, which may contribute to inflammation and worsen back pain for some people.

Q: Is caffeine detrimental for back pain sufferers?

A: While caffeine itself may not worsen back pain, it may disrupt sleep quality, which can exacerbate pain levels for those with chronic pain.

Q: Are there any superfoods that can alleviate back pain?

A: Foods that are natural anti-inflammatories, such as fatty fish like salmon and tuna, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens, can help to reduce inflammation and ease pain levels.

Q: Does alcohol have a negative impact on back pain?

A: Alcohol can dehydrate the body, which can worsen back pain. Additionally, it is an inflammatory agent that can exacerbate inflammation and pain levels.

Q: How important is hydration when it comes to back pain?

A: Staying hydrated is crucial for those with back pain since dehydration can increase pain. Drinking plenty of water can help to keep the muscles and discs in the back healthy and functioning properly.

the back recovery program by alex larsson
Jane Smith is a natural health enthusiast on a mission to uncover effective methods for achieving pain-free living. Through her personal journey with chronic back pain, she has become well-versed in holistic approaches such as yoga, Pilates, and essential oils.

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