Many people suffer from back pain, and having a drink or two can help to calm the body. While this may work as a muscle relaxant for some, alcohol can contribute to back pain. Self-medication with spirits can reduce inflammation, but unfortunately, the detriments outweigh the benefits.
So why does my back hurt when I drink alcohol? Here are the main reasons.
It could be due to dehydration if you experience back pain while consuming alcohol. Water in the body is there to keep an even temperature, lubricate joints and protect sensitive tissues, including your spinal cord. It also helps eliminate waste through urination, defecation and perspiration. Alcohol blocks the pituitary gland from creating vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone that controls the body’s water, and without this, more water is lost in your urine.
Your kidneys are filters for alcohol; if there isn’t enough water in the system, they will draw it from your muscles. This makes your muscles weak and contributes to pain. Your spine also loses water with alcohol drinking, causing the intervertebral discs to rub together and press on nerves in your spine. Back pain and sciatica are the results.
Alcohol’s inflammatory effects negatively impact the body and cause back pain. It tends to aggravate various auto-immune conditions, as well as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. You should visit a physiotherapy clinic for long-term treatment.
Some people find that a small amount of alcohol, like red wine, can ease the pain. In others, it triggers flare-ups around the body, including the back. Those benefits will be negated and increase inflammation if you are a moderate or heavy drinker.
This is a neuromuscular disorder where you experience muscle weakness, cramps, spasms and stiffness. While this condition can be inherited or the result of a congenital disorder or disease, alcohol can also trigger it.
Alcoholic myopathy is a toxic body response and can be chronic or acute, meaning long-term heavy drinking or even a night of binge drinking. Alcohol hinders the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D, which then inhibits the use of other nutrients. The result is improper muscle function and pain.
Over time, excessive alcohol use decreases muscle strength and increases pain, but even one sitting where you consume more than five drinks can trigger acute myopathy.
4. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that affects the lymphatic system, where white blood cells grow uncontrolled and result in swelling of the lymph nodes. While they don’t hurt to touch, drinking alcohol can make them painful because of lymph node enlargement, which causes compression on nerves, resulting in pain, numbness and tingling in the lower back.
Understanding the relationship between back pain and alcohol consumption can empower you to take control of your pain. Here are some ideas for minimizing your discomfort while still enjoying a drink:
- Drink In Moderation Moderation is a vague term, but it is considered one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. This can be a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. Unfortunately, you can’t stack your daily amount and have five drinks at the end of the week.
- Don’t Use It As A Pain Reliever While a small amount of alcohol can reduce inflammation and pain and relax you, and it is not medicine. There is an early tipping point as well, so any more than 1 or 2 cocktails will cause negative effects, and as you build up a tolerance, you will drink more to get relief. Too much alcohol brings its own set of health-related problems.
- Alcohol Mixed With Medication If you take any medication, especially for your back pain, alcohol can negatively interact with it. Opiates mixed with alcohol create a strong sedative reaction and can lead to breathing failure and death. Even mild drugs like aspirin and Tylenol can lead to gastric bleeding and liver failure when mixed with alcohol.
- Don’t Drink On An Empty Stomach When you have food, and the alcohol will absorb slower in your stomach. Alternating your spirits with a drink of water or soft drinks will help too.
- Take Note Of Your Drinking And Back Pain This is literal note-taking to track any increased back pain as you consume alcohol. It’s hard to remember what triggers the pain unless you write it down, so keep a pad and pen handy to monitor the effects.
- Try Non-Alcoholic Options If you are in a situation where there is social drinking, take a non-alcoholic option to join in on the festivities. It will give your body a break from processing alcohol and not trigger alcohol-related back pain.
If your goal is to minimize back pain, take a break from alcohol and see if it makes a difference. You have the power to control your habits and minimize your pain. By understanding the causes of alcohol-related back pain, you are empowered to make changes to improve your health and happiness.