Which Foods to Avoid for Back Pain: A Comprehensive Guide

Are you someone who suffers from chronic back pain? You’re not alone. Many people all around the globe are in the same boat. But did you know that some foods can make your back pain worse? While there isn’t necessarily a definitive list of foods that should be avoided if you have back pain, there are a few that should be approached with caution.

First on the list is white bread. That’s right; the humble loaf that has been a staple in households for generations may be the culprit behind your back pain. White bread is high in sugar and carbohydrates, which can lead to inflammation in your body and cause your back pain to worsen. Don’t worry, though – you don’t have to give up bread altogether. Opt for whole-grain varieties instead, or have bread in moderation.

Next up, we have red meat. Unfortunately, one of the world’s most beloved meats may be causing your back pain to flare up. Red meat is high in saturated fat, which can cause inflammation and make your pain worse. Try cutting back on your red meat consumption and switch to leaner proteins like chicken or fish. If you do want to indulge in a juicy steak, make sure it’s a rare treat instead of a regular occurrence.

Foods high in saturated fats

When it comes to managing back pain, it’s essential to keep a check on your diet. Certain foods can worsen inflammation and cause discomfort. Foods high in saturated fats are known to trigger inflammation, which can aggravate back pain. Saturated fats are usually found in animal-based products like meat, cheese, butter, cream, and fatty cuts of pork and beef.

  • Red meat: Beef, lamb, and pork contain high levels of saturated fat, which can increase inflammation in the body. Limiting the intake of red meat and opting for lean meats like chicken or turkey can help manage back pain.
  • Fried foods: Fried foods, including french fries, crisps, and fried chicken, are high in saturated fats. These foods can increase the level of bad cholesterol in the blood, leading to inflammation and back pain.
  • Dairy products: High-fat dairy products like cheese, whole milk, and cream contain high levels of saturated fat. Substitute high-fat dairy with low-fat options like skimmed milk or yoghurt to reduce inflammation and back pain.

Healthy fats to include in your diet

While it’s essential to avoid foods high in saturated fats, incorporating healthy fats into your diet can help reduce inflammation and alleviate back pain. Consuming healthy fats can also support a healthy weight and keep your body functioning well.

  • Omega-3 fats: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, are anti-inflammatory. These fats can help reduce inflammation, which can help relieve back pain.
  • Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds are a good source of healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats can reduce inflammation and lower the risk of chronic diseases, including back pain.
  • Avocado: Avocado is packed with healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. Adding avocado to your diet can help keep inflammation at bay and prevent back pain.


Avoiding foods high in saturated fats and incorporating healthy fats into your diet can help manage inflammation and alleviate back pain. Focusing on a diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids, nuts and seeds, and avocado can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases.

Foods to avoid Healthy alternatives
Red meat Lean meat, chicken, fish, tofu
Fried foods Baked or grilled chicken or fish, baked sweet potato fries
Dairy products Low-fat dairy products like skimmed milk and yoghurt, plant-based milk alternatives like almond or soy milk

Avoiding saturated fats is key to managing back pain. Incorporating healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, nuts and seeds, and avocado into your diet can help reduce inflammation and alleviate back pain. Choosing healthy alternatives to foods high in saturated fat can keep you pain-free and healthy.

Processed Foods

Processed foods are among the most common culprits contributing to back pain. These types of foods are loaded with unhealthy additives, preservatives, and other artificial ingredients that can trigger inflammation, aggravate existing conditions, and cause muscle or joint pain. Processed foods also tend to be high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and calories, all of which can lead to weight gain and put additional stress on the back muscles and spine.

  • Sugary drinks: Sodas, energy drinks, sweetened teas, and other sugary drinks can spike your blood sugar levels rapidly, increasing inflammation and contributing to weight gain that further strains on your back muscles.
  • Fast food: Fast food meals are often loaded with unhealthy fats, refined carbs, and sugar, which can all contribute to inflammation, pain, and weight gain over time.
  • Candy, sweets, and desserts: These items are high in sugar and artificial ingredients that can contribute to inflammation, muscle pain, and joint pain, among other health issues.

How to Avoid Processed Foods

Avoiding processed foods can help you maintain a healthy back and reduce your risk of back pain. Instead, focus on eating natural, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. If you need to eat processed foods, look for options that are low in sugar, unhealthy fats, and artificial ingredients, and choose items that contain fewer additives and more natural ingredients.

The Negative Effects of Processed Foods on Your Back

Eating a diet high in processed foods can negatively impact your back in several ways. The high sugar content can lead to inflammation and chronic pain, while unhealthy fats can contribute to weight gain and muscle strain. Consuming processed foods regularly can alter your body’s chemical makeup and cause imbalances, leading to a range of health issues, including back pain.

Processed Foods to Avoid Healthy Alternatives
Fast food burgers and fries Grilled chicken breast and sweet potato fries
High-sugar breakfast cereals Oatmeal with fresh fruit and nuts
Soda and sweetened beverages Water, herbal tea, or unsweetened iced tea

By reducing your consumption of processed foods and focusing on natural, whole foods, you can reduce your risk of back pain, improve your overall health, and feel better every day.

Sugary drinks

Sugary drinks, also called soft drinks or soda, are one of the top foods that people should avoid if they have back pain. These drinks contain a significant amount of sugar, which can cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation worsens back pain because it aggravates nerve endings and causes more pain signals to be sent to the brain.

  • The high sugar content in soda can also lead to weight gain, putting more pressure on the back, which can worsen back pain.
  • Sugary drinks are also acidic, which can eat away at teeth, causing pain and discomfort in the gums and jaw, leading to pain in the neck and upper back.
  • Drinking too many sugary drinks can also lead to dehydration, which can cause muscle spasms and cramps, leading to more back pain.

It is essential to be mindful of the amount of sugar in the drinks we consume, especially if we are experiencing back pain. Instead of sugary drinks, opt for water, fruit infused water, unsweetened teas, or freshly squeezed fruit juices. These beverages can hydrate the body and reduce inflammation, improving overall back pain.

In summary, it is best to avoid sugary drinks if you have back pain. They can cause inflammation, lead to weight gain, and dehydrate the body, all of which increase back pain. Instead, choose to drink beverages that are healthier and will not cause further pain.

Type of Sugary Drink Sugar Content (per 12 oz. serving)
Regular soda 8-10 teaspoons of sugar
Sports drinks 4-7 teaspoons of sugar
Energy drinks 8-14 teaspoons of sugar

The above table shows the amount of sugar in popular sugary drinks. It is crucial to be aware of the high sugar content in these beverages and choose healthier options to manage back pain effectively.

Red meat

Red meat is one of the most popular meat choices because it is tasty, versatile and easy to cook. However, it is best to limit your intake of red meat if you have back pain. This may be due to several reasons:

  • Red meat is high in saturated fats, which can cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation can worsen back pain, especially if you have conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Red meat is rich in iron. Too much iron intake can lead to oxidative stress and inflammation, which can trigger back pain.
  • Processed red meat, such as sausage, bacon, and hot dogs, contain nitrates and nitrites, which are preservatives that may increase inflammation and worsen pain.

That said, you don’t necessarily have to eliminate red meat from your diet completely, but it is recommended to limit your intake and choose leaner cuts. When cooking your red meat, try grilling or broiling it instead of frying to reduce the amount of saturated fats.

Red meat types Serving size Calories Fat (g)
Sirloin steak, lean 3 oz 200 10
Ground beef (80% lean) 3 oz 230 15
Bacon (3 slices) 3 oz 273 22

Remember that while red meat isn’t entirely bad for you, keeping an eye on your intake and choosing healthier cooking methods can help you manage your back pain and keep yourself healthy.


Alcohol consumption may seem to alleviate pain because it has a sedative effect on the body. However, it can actually worsen back pain in the long term. Here’s why:

  • Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and dehydrates the body. This can lead to inflammation and muscle spasms, which can exacerbate back pain.
  • Toxicity: Excessive alcohol consumption can cause liver damage. The liver is responsible for processing and eliminating toxins from the body, so when it is damaged, toxins can accumulate in the bloodstream and cause inflammation and pain in various areas of the body, including the back.
  • Nutrition: Alcohol has little to no nutritional value, and excessive consumption can actually deplete important nutrients from the body. This can weaken the muscles and bones, making them more susceptible to injury and back pain.

If you enjoy drinking alcohol, it’s important to do so in moderation and ensure that you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Alcoholic Beverage Calories per 12 oz. Sugar per 12 oz.
Beer (light) 95 2.6g
Beer (regular) 153 12.5g
Wine (red) 125 0.9g
Wine (white) 121 1.4g
Cocktail (margarita) 453 58.7g

The table above shows the calorie and sugar content of common alcoholic beverages. Be mindful of the amount of calories and sugar you consume from alcohol, as excessive consumption can lead to weight gain and inflammation in the body, which can exacerbate back pain.

Artificial Sweeteners

Most people are unaware of the fact that artificial sweeteners are not good for our health and can make back pain worse. Many people turn to artificial sweeteners to reduce calorie intake or to manage diabetes. However, studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may increase inflammation, which can cause damage to your back muscles. This is why it’s always a good idea to avoid artificial sweeteners, especially if you suffer from chronic back pain.

  • Artificial sweeteners can be found in several different food products including diet soda, low-calorie yogurts, and even protein bars.
  • Consumption of artificial sweeteners can lead to obesity, diabetes, kidney damage, and heart disease which can ultimately lead to back problems.
  • Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose have been known to cause muscle damage, which can lead to back pain and other issues like joint pain, headaches, and fatigue.

If you suffer from back pain, it’s important to stay away from artificial sweeteners. Instead, opt for natural sweeteners like honey, stevia, or coconut sugar to satisfy your sweet cravings. By making small dietary changes like this, you can help alleviate back pain and improve your overall health.

Common Types of Artificial Sweeteners Brand Names Approximate Sweetness Compared to Sugar
Aspartame Nutrasweet, Equal 200 times sweeter than sugar
Sucralose Splenda 600 times sweeter than sugar
Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K) Sunett, Sweet One 200 times sweeter than sugar

Some sweeteners, like aspartame, may not always be listed by name on food packaging. It’s important to read labels carefully to make sure you’re avoiding artificial sweeteners whenever possible.

Fried Foods and their Contribution to Back Pain

Fried foods are one of the most popular types of foods, especially in the western world. Many individuals consume fried foods in large amounts, but what many do not realize is that these foods can contribute to or even cause back pain.

  • Inflammatory properties: Fried foods can increase inflammation in the body. This occurs due to the high amount of unhealthy fats and oils in these foods. The more inflammation in the body, the more likely an individual is to experience back pain.
  • High calorie content: Fried foods are often high in calories. Consistently consuming foods high in calories can lead to obesity, which has been shown to be a cause of back pain. Extra weight places additional stress on the joints in the back, ultimately leading to pain.
  • Reduces blood circulation: Fried foods have a negative impact on blood circulation in the body. This happens due to the high fat content in these foods, which clogs arteries and can lead to decreased blood flow to the back muscles. When the muscles are not receiving adequate amounts of oxygen and nutrients, they become weak and easily fatigued, leading to pain and weakness.

Healthy Alternatives to Fried Foods

If you are experiencing back pain, it may be time to swap out your fried foods for healthier alternatives. Here are some options you can try:

  • Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna, can help reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are an excellent source of calcium, which can help strengthen the bones in your back.
  • Foods rich in vitamin D, like eggs and mushrooms, can help keep your bones strong and healthy, reducing the risk of back pain.


Although fried foods may be tempting, they are not worth the risk of back pain. With the variety of healthy alternatives available, it is worth investing in your long-term health and wellbeing.

Fried Food Calories (per serving) Unhealthy Fat Content (per serving)
Fried Chicken 485 28g
Mozzarella Sticks 450 23g
French Fries 365 17g

The next time you are tempted to consume fried foods, remember the potential for pain and consider making healthier choices instead.

Foods High in Sodium

When it comes to managing back pain, it’s important to watch what you eat. Foods that are high in sodium can exacerbate inflammation and swelling, which can put additional strain on your back muscles and nerves. Sodium is an essential mineral that our bodies need, but consuming excessive amounts can lead to a range of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

  • Processed Meats: Deli meats, sausages, and bacon are all high in sodium and should be avoided if you are experiencing back pain. Not only are they high in sodium, but they are also high in fat, which can contribute to inflammation.
  • Canned Foods: Canned soups, vegetables, and sauces are often loaded with sodium. One serving of canned soup can contain up to 900 milligrams of sodium. Look for low-sodium options or opt for fresh or frozen vegetables instead.
  • Fast Food: Fast food is notorious for being high in sodium. A single fast-food meal can contain more than the recommended daily intake of sodium. Try to avoid fast food or choose low-sodium options if you must eat it.

If you are trying to reduce your sodium intake, it’s important to read food labels carefully. A food that is labeled as “low sodium” may still contain more than the recommended daily intake. Look for foods that are labeled as “no added salt” or “sodium-free.”

Food Sodium (in mg)
Bread (1 slice) 150-200
Canned tuna (3 oz) 300
Cheese (1 oz) 170-220
Chicken breast (3 oz) 75
Pizza (1 slice) 600-900

In conclusion, reducing your intake of foods high in sodium can be beneficial for managing back pain. Instead, focus on eating whole foods that are nutrient-dense and low in sodium. Choosing fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help reduce inflammation and improve your overall health.


Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in various products such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks. Although it can provide a boost of energy and mental alertness, it can also worsen back pain in some individuals.

Caffeine affects the central nervous system and can cause muscle tension and spasms, which can exacerbate existing back pain. Additionally, caffeine can interfere with sleep quality, which is essential for restorative rest and healing of the body, including the back muscles and spine.

  • Avoid or limit intake of coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages.
  • Read labels carefully and choose decaffeinated versions of products when available.
  • Consider switching to alternative drinks such as herbal tea or water with lemon for a refreshing beverage.

While it may be challenging to cut back on caffeine, try to gradually reduce your intake to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and mood swings. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your caffeine intake and back pain.

Dairy Products

Dairy products are often a staple in many diets, but they can exacerbate back pain and discomfort. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt contain casein, which is a type of protein that can be difficult for some people to digest properly. This can lead to inflammation in the body, which can cause pain and discomfort in the back.

  • Cheese: Cheese is high in both fat and salt, which can increase inflammation in the body and make back pain worse. In particular, aged and processed cheeses, such as cheddar, gouda, and brie, may be especially problematic.
  • Milk: Milk is a common ingredient in many foods, but it can be a problem for those with back pain. Some people may be lactose intolerant, which means they cannot digest the lactose in milk properly. This can cause gas, bloating, and discomfort, all of which can contribute to back pain.
  • Yogurt: Yogurt is often marketed as a health food, but it can also be problematic for those with back pain. Like milk, yogurt contains lactose, which can be a problem for some people. Additionally, many yogurts are high in sugar, which can also increase inflammation in the body and contribute to back pain.

If you suffer from back pain, it may be worth considering reducing or eliminating dairy products from your diet. However, it’s important to speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian before making any significant changes to your diet.

In summary, dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt can exacerbate back pain and discomfort due to their high fat, salt, and lactose content. It may be worth considering reducing or eliminating these foods from your diet if you suffer from back pain, but it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet.

There Goes Your Back Pain: Avoid These Foods

So, we now know which foods to avoid when suffering from back pain. Bye-bye soda, fried stuff, and processed foods! You might be thinking that your diet has to be a bit boring now, but that’s not entirely true. There are still a lot of yummy options out there that won’t leave you feeling guilty. It’s all about making the right choices and knowing what’s good for your body. Remember, food isn’t only about taste; it’s fuel for your system. Thanks for reading and take care of your health! Don’t forget to come back later for more tips on how to live a healthy and pain-free life.