While heartburn is what most people associate with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), you may be wondering if similar burning pain felt around your spine is related to GERD. It’s possible to have recurring acid reflux and spine-related discomfort at the same time, which is why you might assume your digestive disorder is contributing to your back pain. In reality, your GERD is likely being affected by either your back pain treatment or something else related to your spinal discomfort.
Over-the-counter and prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly recommended to reduce the tissue swelling that tends to make back pain worse. If they’ve been prescribed NSAIDS after procedures such as spinal fusion surgery, Los Angeles patients may find long-term use of these medications contributes to an assortment of stomach-related issues, including heartburn, nausea, stomach pain, gas, and constipation.
There’s also evidence suggesting some individuals taking NSAIDs do develop GERD. If this is the case for you, ask your doctor to recommend alternative medications. Another option is to eat more foods that naturally reduce inflammation. Some of these foods include:
• Spinach, kale, and other green leafy veggies
• Salmon, tuna, and other healthy fatty fish
• Unsalted nuts
• Bright-colored fruits
Back pain that becomes chronic—lasting for 3–4 months or more—can increase stress, which is also one of the factors that contributes to GERD, so this is a situation where the same contributing factor applies to both your back pain and issues with your upper digestive tract. If this applies to your situation, you may benefit from stress-reduction remedies that include:
• Changing how you perceive your pain (cognitive behavioral therapy)
• Using talk therapy (psychotherapy)
• Finding a support group or confiding in a friend
• Meditating or deep breathing
Some people with back pain turn to food to manage their discomfort. A not-so-healthy diet that includes fatty foods, sugary snacks, and other types of comfort foods can increase inflammation around various parts of the spine. These same foods can also trigger GERD symptoms. Possible trigger foods include:
• Excessive amounts of alcohol
• Fried foods
If your diet is contributing to both GERD and back pain, you may see improvements if you eat smaller meals, opt for a balanced, healthy diet, and avoid eating before going to bed. Because everybody has different trigger foods, it will likely be a trial-and-error process before you find the specific foods that tend to make your symptoms worse.
GERD isn’t likely to be the specific or sole cause of your back pain. Still, there are some contributing factors to spine problems that could also be aggravating your GERD symptoms. If you suspect a source of your back pain or certain treatments related to it may be affecting your digestive system in some way, talk to your Los Angeles spine surgeon to explore your treatment and symptom management options.
If you’re experiencing sudden, severe, or long-lasting spinal pain of any kind, make sure to consult a specialist for accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment. The pioneering physicians at The Spine Institute have experience with every aspect of neck and back health, so give us a call today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.