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Back Pain After Drinking Alcohol? Are the Two Related?

A quick search on Google shows many articles and forum discussions about back pain after drinking alcohol. However, after doing a review of the scientific studies on the topic, Ferreira PH, et. al.1 noted there weren’t any available scientific studies showing a correlation between the two. However, they noted that “well-designed specific alcohol/low-back pain-centered studies are lacking.” Perhaps this topic will be studied more in the future. In lieu of concrete scientific evidence, let’s take a look at some things we do know about the correlation between alcohol and back pain.

Lower Back Pain After Drinking Alcohol

Alcohol and Joint Pain

The relationship between alcohol and joint pain is a difficult one to understand. This is due to the fact that alcohol has been shown to reduce pain2. Therefore, come chronic pain sufferers use alcohol to self-medicate. So, is the alcohol causing the pain or is the pain causing an increased use of alcohol? It could be a bit of both.

Alcohol and Arthritis

In addition to its analgesic properties, alcohol also has anti-inflammatory effects. Therefore, as Karen Costenbader, MD, MPH noted, it may help reduce inflammation of the joints. This reduced inflammation can minimize the chance of the user developing rheumatoid arthritis. However, the quantity required for these benefits, equates to less than one glass of wine per day.3 In addition,the negative effects can outweigh any potential benefits.

Alcohol, Dehydration and Back Pain

 

Alcohol also blocks the creation of vasopressin from the pituitary gland.4 This antidiuretic hormone helps control the amount of water in your body. When you drink alcohol and this hormone is reduced, your body secretes more of its water in your urine.

So, how does the dehydrating effect of alcohol impact back pain? To understand the relationship between dehydration, alcohol and back pain we must consider the anatomy of our spine.

Between each vertebrae in our spine is an intervertebral disc. These discs act as shock absorbers as we move, preventing pain caused by discs rubbing together. The discs also prevent the vertebrae from pressing on the nerves in and around the spinal column. Pressure on these nerves is a common cause of back pain and sciatica.

So, drinking alcohol can cause dehydration and reduce the amount of water in your intervertebral discs. This loss of water in your spinal discs can lead to pain from discs rubbing together or from the discs pressing on nerves around your spine. As you might imagine, someone with degenerative disc disease may experience a worsening of their pain symptoms as a result of the dehydration caused by alcohol consumption.

Back Pain After Drinking Alcohol

As you can see, the relationship between back pain and alcohol is complex. Alcohol affects many of the normal functions of the human body. As such, it has the ability to potentially relieve pain symptoms or exacerbate problems that may already exist within the body.

 

In general, a healthy lifestyle including healthy eating, not smoking, and moderate to no alcohol consumption is recommended for those who experience back pain. This is especially true for those that experience back pain after drinking alcohol.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23146385
  2. http://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(16)30334-0/abstract
  3. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/foods-to-avoid-limit/alcohol-in-moderation.php
  4. https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/drugs-alcohol/hangover2.htm
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