In our busy culture, many people consider coffee to be a necessity. After all, most people enjoy a morning cup of coffee, and some of us may even enjoy several cups of coffee or coffee-based beverages throughout the day. This time of year as the weather cools down, you may even be tempted to change up your normal coffee routine by adding in some seasonal favorites, such as Caramel Apple and Pumpkin Spice Lattes! While all coffee-based drinks can help you to perk up and be more productive throughout the day, for those suffering with chronic back pain, coffee could just make the issue worse and even trigger neck and back pain flare-ups.
If you are a coffee lover and you suffer with chronic neck or back pain that tends to linger and recur, it’s first important to determine what it is that makes you just have to have your daily cup or cups of joe! Is it the “pick me up” or is it the “coffee experience,” meaning just having something warm and tasty to curl up with? If the latter, you may want to try switching to decaf, as it’s actually the caffeine that is most responsible for making back pain worse. Also, do keep in mind that you will need to be mindful of other drinks that could be high in caffeine. These include energy drinks and sodas. Always opt for a caffeine-free variety, when possible.
The Correlation Between Caffeine & Back Pain
At present, we have little to no evidence that directly ties coffee and back pain together. However, we do know that caffeine can increase stress levels, chronic inflammation, anxiety, and can cause sleep problems. We also know that all of these symptoms can aggravate back pain and arthritis. Therefore, while coffee may not directly be “guilty” of causing your pain, it is certainly “guilty by association,” as it sets the stage for making your condition worse!
Stress Hormones & Cortisol
A lot of us use coffee and caffeine as a way to keep us going. We are over-scheduled and juggle many responsibilities, so we feel that we need a boost. While coffee can help us to feel more energetic and accomplish more tasks, there is evidence that it also makes stress levels higher. When stress levels are higher in the human body, the level of stress hormones, such as cortisol, in the body are also higher. The problem with high cortisol is that the body can’t keep cortisol levels high for very long. Levels of cortisol eventually “crash.” This makes your body incapable of dealing with stress and triggers sensitivity to pain all over your body. This is the reason why many people in stressful situations notice a flare-up of back pain simultaneously.
If you’ve decided that caffeine and caffeinated coffee simply isn’t worth dealing with spine-related pain, it may be best to say goodbye for good. However, if you have been in the habit of regularly enjoying caffeine, please note that your body will undergo caffeine withdrawal. Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal can also spark pain and stiffness in the body, including in the neck and back. The good news is that caffeine withdrawal symptoms will generally subside after 1 – 3 days after you stop. After one full week, you should feel like yourself again.
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At Stridewell Same-Day Spine Clinic, we take the time to discuss your lifestyle with you and are happy to discuss how everyday choices that you make can affect your spine health. If you consume caffeine and think it could be causing your neck pain or back pain, be sure to discuss it during your visit with our spine specialists. Stridewell Tipsread article