How Sugar Affects Back Pain

How Sugar Affects Back Pain


The complaints of lower back pain have increased over the years. Low back pain was once something a person took aspirin for and went back to work the next day is now at epidemic proportions.

The most common causes of lower back pain include:

  • Excess body fat, especially around the waist, which results in weak abdominal muscles and tight back muscles from trying to compensate cause pain.
  • Physical stress on the spine is caused by muscle imbalance and results in pain and inflammation.
  • A poor diet promotes excess body fat and often leads to chronic inflammation, especially in the spinal joints.

Due to these causes of lower back pain, an intense cycle of chronic back pain develops.

This fact sheet on The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website covers back pain causes, risk factors, and traditional and alternative treatments. Weight gain is on the list of high-risk factors for back pain. Sugar is a primary contributor to weight gain and insulin problems.

Lifestyle factors that often make chronic back pain worse include:

  • Poor sleep habits
  • Sitting for long periods of time
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Exercise stress
  • Wearing bad shoes

Sadly, the most prescribed treatment for lower back pain merely treats the symptoms, not the problems. It is not uncommon for the cause to be left undetected, resulting in chronic disability.

A poor diet is the most likely culprit that starts the vicious cycle that becomes chronic low back pain.

Sugar Consumption Problems

Sugar is addictive because it is easy to exceed the healthy limits of consumption. All sugars make you crave more sugar. It is also an ingredient added to several types of processed foods such as yogurt, sauces, bread, juices, and other food products.

According to the Diabetes Council, the average sugar consumption in America in 1915 per individual was 17.5 pounds. The United States has the number one spot for the highest average daily sugar consumption per person at 126.4 grams.

Sugar Science at the University of California San Francisco reports that the average American consumes 71.14 grams (17 teaspoons) of sugar every day. That amounts to around 57 pounds of sugar per person, per year.

The Mayo Clinic reports that the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans claim that no more than 10 percent of the calories you consume should be from sugars. That translates into about 48 grams or 12 teaspoons per day.

If that seems high to you, the American Heart Association agrees with you. They are stricter on their guidelines at no more than 6 teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar per day for women and children (over 2) and 36 grams or 9 teaspoons for men.

The Effects of Sugar on Chronic Back Pain

Too much sugar affects pain levels, including lower back pain. How? Sugar produces a rise in cortisol levels, which creates higher inflammation in the body’s tissues.

Too much sugar consumption contributes to excess fat/weight (weight gain), heart disease, depression, the high risk of diabetes, and most recently it has been discovered that it contributes to joint and back pain.

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This all happens because when you eat too much sugar the human body releases stress hormones and insulin. These are the factors known to trigger inflammation. Inflammation is known as the primary cause of chronic pain.

Because your joints and spine have the lowest blood circulation in the body, these are the most vulnerable areas at risk for inflammation.

That is how sugar impacts low back pain. Inflammation due to the production of stress hormones and insulin. If you suffer from back pain, the goal is to first reduce sugar in your diet. Terry Wahls, M.D. discusses the real reason for chronic pain in her article on Mind Body Green, The Real Reason You Have Chronic Pan + How To Heal It.

What are sugars and its partners?

Sugar by Any Other Name is Still Sugar

It is important to know that sugar isn’t always listed as “sugar” in products’ ingredients.

You need to recognize that added sugars include the “ose” sugars like these:

  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • Maltose
  • Dextrose

Other ingredients that are included with the added sugar lists include:

  • Corn sweeteners (high-fructose corn syrup)
  • Cane syrup and juice
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • Maple or malt syrup
  • Brown sugar

NHS addresses the Top sources of added sugar on their website.

Can you reduce or eliminate sugar from your diet?

Ways to Reduce Sugar in Your Diet

You can scale down sugar consumption by eliminating sugar and foods and beverages with added sugars in them. You should know where sugars hide in foods and beverages.

  • Alcohol (wine, beer, cocktails)
  • Soda-Carbonated Beverages
  • Cheese Products
  • Fruits Like Bananas and Grapes
  • Cookies, Cakes, Pastries
  • Pasta and Bread

While organic foods and beverages are better for you, you still need to be watchful of fructose, sugar, honey, cane syrup, dextrose, and the other partners of sugar that are sugar with another name.

Not only will reducing your sugar intake help to reduce your low back pain, but it will also help to eliminate other factors that trigger it or make it worse like excess weight and poor diet.

It is advised that you decrease your intake of sugars (all kinds) to at least the recommended amounts mentioned earlier in this article.

Other Ways to Reduce Back Pain

You can reduce back pain by regulating your blood sugar levels, thereby reducing cortisol and inflammation response.

The Glycemic Index

Choose foods and beverages in the low-glycemic index range and stay away from those in the high range.

Drink More Water

You hear it all the time but, you should increase your water intake to stay hydrated and to flush out your kidneys that in turn eliminate excess blood sugar from your body.

Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs

Healthy, good carbs contain a lot of fiber that is slowly absorbed into the body. Vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains that are low in sugar and that fit into the low-glycemic index.

Stress Management

Whether you have stress at home or at work, you need to find ways to reduce your stress. Stress stimulates the release of stress hormones that increase blood sugar levels. Using inversion tables to stretch your spine, meditation, walking, yoga, and/or breathing exercises are some good ways to manage stress.

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Ample Sleep

Your body needs to rest. The only time the body has to truly heal and rejuvenate is during sleep. Restful sleep plays a major role in blood sugar regulation, weight reduction, and stress management.

Get Active

Even taking a daily walk for 20 minutes a day helps you get and stay active enough to help you avoid cravings and help your body efficiently process insulin.


You may be able to reduce the use of pain relievers (over the counter and prescribed by a doctor) by simply reducing how much sugar you.

According to Dr. Phil Maffetone, in his article Fixing low back pain, painkillers and anti-inflammatories do not fix low back pain.

They merely mask the issue by reducing the symptoms only. These medications have their own side effects and issues that could affect your health and quality of life.

By cutting back on sugar in your diet, you will also decrease the release of stress hormones and insulin, which results in inflammation reduction in your body, thereby reducing/eliminating chronic pain.

In short, you need to eat healthily, sleep well, stay hydrated, and get some exercise in order to reduce low back pain. Keep it simple, take things one day at a time, and lose weight the healthy way without rushing things.

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One Reply to “How Sugar Affects Back Pain”

  1. I enjoyed reading this. I have just discovered this quite by accident when I started on a low-carb diet to support my dad. A large number of chronic ailments have magically dissappeared…. if only all the doctors I have seen over the years would have known this…..

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