What Causes Inflammation in the Lower Back?

Localized inflammation is meant to be a good thing for your overall health. It happens when the body wields a defense against foreign invaders and injuries in order to help signal to the immune system that something needs healing. Think about when your ankle swells up after an injury or your skin puffs up after you get stung by a bee. However, there is a type of inflammation that can be painful and debilitating, even when your body doesn’t need any immune support.

This kind of inflammation is known as chronic or low-grade inflammation, and it occurs when your body persistently perceives a threat, even when there is no injury, pathogen, toxin, or another such threat present. Essentially, it happens when the immune system sends white blood cells to the perceived injury site, but—since there is actually no injury or threat to address—these cells have nowhere to go. As a result, they may attack the healthy organs, tissues, and cells in your body, causing chronic pain.

This response can happen throughout the body and lead to inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis in the joints, Crohn's disease in the bowels, and psoriasis in the skin. In the lower back, inflammatory pain occurs when the body wields an immune response and attacks the joints in the spine. Often, this is due to the presence of pathogens—viruses, bacteria, fungi etc.—that are found in the body, tripping your immune system even when it isn’t necessary. It may also be due to external injuries or the effects of chemicals.

We now know the root cause of inflammation in the back and throughout the body, but it helps to know a few things that can worsen the condition so that you can develop a back pain treatment plan that really works for you.

  • Consuming Trigger Foods – First things first: your diet. Unfortunately, many foods and food ingredients signal to your body that it needs to wage war when it really isn’t necessary. Some examples of common inflammation triggers are sugar, gluten, casein, and alcohol. Reference the Arthritis Foundation’s list of foods that cause inflammation for more information and to see if your condition may be worsening due to something you’re eating or drinking.
  • Not Consuming Anti-Inflammatory Foods – Sure, what you eat can be causing your inflammation, but it also may help prevent inflammation. In addition to cutting out inflammation-causing foods, you should also think about consuming healthier foods that can help prevent it in the first place. Some of the best anti-inflammatory foods are leafy greens and other vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids—fish, shellfish, nuts, and certain seeds, for example—antioxidants, fruits, whole grains, and certain spices, such as ginger and turmeric.
  • Not Enough Exercise – Have you ever noticed that your lower back pain feels better after you get a bit of exercise? It’s not a coincidence. Physical exercise eases inflammation by replenishing the lubrication of the joint cartilage, which will have the effect of pain reduction. Exercising your heart and strengthening your muscles will also help you lose weight and strengthen your core, which can aid in the prevention of other lower back pain triggers.
  • Stress – Each day, we learn more and more about how much stress affects our physical health and well-being, and it’s clear that it has a major impact on every corner of our lives. The implications of prolonged stress lead to a higher risk of heart disease and anxiety, of course, but they also affect the immune system. Though researchers aren’t entirely sure why, there is a clear link between stress-relieving activities—such as yoga, deep breathing, stress management activities, etc.—and lowered inflammation.

Treating Lower Back Inflammation

The good news is that, though you may feel debilitated by this kind of back pain, there are some treatment options available to help you get back to feeling your very best. We recommend low-level laser therapy for back inflammation for anyone who wants a relaxing, non-pharmaceutical option for helping deal with the pain. These laser devices use clinically proven technology to temporarily relieve joint aches with no known adverse side effects.

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