Allergies, one of the leading causes of chronic illness in the United States, affect approximately 50 million Americans. Hay fever (allergic rhinitis), the most common type of seasonal allergy, affects about 20 million adults and 6 million children in the U.S. While many people associate allergies of this nature with sniffling and sneezing, some experience joint pain and inflammation. Inflammation can contribute to separate issues with arthritis of the spine (osteoarthritis). If this is what you’re experiencing, here’s what you can do to prevent spine pain caused by allergies.
Allergens are tiny particles that can easily cling to clothes and skin. If you’ve been outside during allergy season or exposed to your known allergens, make sure to take a bath or shower when you come back indoors. The last thing you want to do is bring more of your allergens indoors by staying in the same clothes. Also, if you have pets, be just as proactive about keeping them clean if they regularly go outside.
According to one study, just 20 minutes of exercise may have positive anti-inflammatory effects. Researchers believe this is because regular activity stimulates the body’s sympathetic nervous system, which extends from the thoracic (upper and mid-back) vertebrae to ones in the lower (lumbar) spine. Exercise also increases the production of endorphins—the body’s natural painkillers—which may further ease inflammation-related pain. Just remember to keep track of pollen counts so you’ll know when to move your workout or exercise routine indoors.
Pay attention to the temperature for the day so you’ll know what to wear to keep yourself sufficiently warm. Heat naturally reduces fluid buildup in tissues (edema) and eases inflammation and joint stiffness. Warmth also promotes healthy circulation, which can speed up the healing of tissues around the spine.
As is the case with medication for spine pain and spinal arthritis, it’s important to take your allergy medications as directed even on days when you’re not experiencing significant symptoms. Over-the-counter allergy medications usually work well. However, if you’re already under the care of a specialist such as a Beverly Hills spine surgeon and you’re taking medication for existing spine pain, let your doctor or pharmacist know what allergy meds you’re also taking so possible interactions can be avoided. If your allergy symptoms are especially problematic, ask your doctor if you might benefit from allergy shots (allergen immunotherapy).
It’s not always easy to manage both allergies and spine pain with do-it-yourself care, which is why it can be helpful to seek input from your doctor if your back-related discomfort gets worse when your allergy symptoms kick in. You may be referred to an allergist for specialized testing to determine or confirm the source of your allergies and see if additional steps can be taken to manage symptoms, and a spine specialist may be able to help you manage joint-related spine pain by:
• Correcting the source of your spinal inflammation (e.g., repairing a herniated disc or performing surgery to relieve nerve compression)
• Recommending stretches, therapeutic exercises, or non-surgical symptom management treatments you haven’t yet considered
• Suggesting appropriate lifestyle changes (e.g., losing weight, getting more exercise, eating healthy foods that naturally fight inflammation)
Most people with seasonal allergies experience an uptick in symptoms in the spring, when pollen counts spike. When this happens, immune system responses are triggered. This extra immune system activity is what can create perfect conditions for the type of joint inflammation that may affect the spine. Some people also have worsening joint-related pain because of how temperature changes affect their allergies in the fall. Barometric pressure changes can also take a toll on spine-supporting joints and soft tissues.
If you have allergies and you think they may be the cause of your spinal pain, don’t suffer unnecessarily. The specialists at the Spine Institute know all about how to ease the pain from inflammation caused by allergies. We specialize in every aspect of spinal health, from preventive care to spinal fusion alternatives. Beverly Hills residents should call us today at 310-828-7757 for more information or to schedule a consultation.