Alcohol and Back Pain

We are well into the holiday, and spirits are running high. With all of the holidays and family gatherings coming up, overall alcohol consumption tends to increase. While this is perfectly fine for most people, those suffering from chronic back pain may want to reconsider topping off their drink this year. Studies have shown that for people with back pain, drinking alcohol can actually increase pain caused by conditions like degenerative disc disease, facet disease, herniated discs and other spinal diseases. For this reason, it may make sense for back pain sufferers to avoid drinking this winter.

Researchers are still trying to find out why there is a correlation between drinking alcohol and back pain as studies have not turned up any conclusive data on the matter. Despite this, there are several theories as to what the effects of drinking have on sciatica, bone spur pain, and other spinal conditions.

Lack of Muscular Support: because alcohol is a natural muscle relaxant, consumption can decrease support in the back, buttocks, pelvic, and abdomen regions of your body, making your body and spine work harder to stay upright.

Poor Blood Flow: one of alcohol’s most dangerous characteristics is that it is a depressant, which means it’s slows down the natural process in the body. Blood circulation is one of the affected process of drinking, and a lack of proper circulation can lead to muscle, and organ damage, as well causing nerves in the spinal column to become irritated due to lack of oxygen and blood flow.

Depression: As previously stated, alcohol acts as a depressant to slow down the body’s natural rhythm, but also causes and intensifies feelings of depression that patients with chronic back pain experience. This can worsen back pain due to: depressed patients not staying active when possible; falls and slips caused by intoxication; and the aforementioned affects of alcohol on the body.

If you feel drinking may be causing or intensifying your back pain this holiday, use as much discretion as needed when consuming alcohol in social settings. Be sure to drink plenty water when drinking alcohol to prevent dehydration, or try a non-alcoholic drink such as cider beer or virgin margaritas!

As always, please see Dr. Sharma at Virginia Spine Specialists for any questions or concerns you may have about your chronic back pain. From everyone here at VSS, Happy New Year!