Nutritional therapy for back pain


Last Saturday, in the middle of teaching my aquacycling class my legs started to weaken and my back went on spasming. The class was so full I had to give my bike to a student. Everyone is now jumping rhythmically to "Moves like Jagger" by Maroon 5 and my body is shutting me down. 4, 3, 2, JUMP! 4, 3, 2, Sit and Crawl! What's one to do? Keep on smiling, keep the rhythm and the fun going while looking for a way to stabilize my pelvis like kneeling on the deck and guide my students with my arms.
AQUA wet hair
I've been there before, I know I have a couple hours before being completely incapacitated and already preparing for that. So I finish teaching this class and the next one and rush home just in time.

I've suffered a traumatic back injury when I was 7 years old and have spent three decades learning how to manage it. The episodes are now years apart instead of monthly, but just as scary and debilitating. I cannot walk, dress, go to the bathroom, lay down, sit down or stand. I cannot laugh, sneezing is the worst but I have learned how to manage it and rebound very quickly, in less than a week typically and want to share some strategies with you today as well as my favorite new piece of furniture.

The pain comes from the body's inflammatory response. Inflammation is a natural reaction to injury and assists with the healing process. Controlling then naturally reducing it was essential for my daily comfort and sleep. I am not one for medication as you know so I start with diet, aka, the whole food pill. In just 4 days of implementing my plan below, pain has been reduced to a whisper. Here is what I am doing EVERY DAY:

Emma's Anti-Inflammatory Back Pain Diet (Awesome for weight loss too since for many people inability to lose weight is correlated to inflammation)

  • Hydration. Back pain, sometimes acute, can be an early sign of dehydration. I've worked with 3 clients who hired me for back pain and discovered that their issue really was dehydration... The lower back pain is sometimes kidney pain. Kidneys filter toxins out of the blood and need water. if the kidneys are stressed, it is not uncommon that it will translate into back pain. So I made sure to drink 1/2 my ideal body weight in ounces of water daily at a minimum.
  • Raw food. I am eating a diet composed of 75% raw vegetables and fruit and drink plenty of water, herbal and green ice teas and green juices. I have 3 green juices a day, 1 or 2 Zenberry Blue and Zenberry Green shakes in home-made cashew or almond milk.
  • Common potent spices and herbs. I have one or two turmeric shots every day (2 tbps. of water, 1 tsp. of turmeric powder and 1 tsp. of lemon blended together). Turmeric is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory herbs. I also flavor my lightly cooked veggies with it (the other 25% of my diet). I had yesterday a shot of wheatgrass with fresh turmeric root at the health food store near me which also did the trick. Ginger is the other anti-inflammatory spice. It has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis and I eat copious amounts of it in my green juices, vegetable stir-fries and ice teas daily. I also read in one of Andrew Weil's publications that Basil contains a volatile oil, including eugenol, which appears to have activity in the body similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, blocking the COX enzyme associated with inflammation. Aloe Vera is also very useful against inflammation and I keep a bottle of it in the fridge to supplement 2 tbps. a day.
  • I eat foods rich in flavonoids which are powerful antioxidants and useful for inflammation reduction (spinach, blueberries and all the superberries in Zenberry Blue, strawberries). Quercetin, found in onions, is good for inflammation as well.
  • Essential Fatty Acids. I ate one meal this week with cold water fishes such as wild caught salmon as they are rich in essential fatty acids and support healing and reducing inflammation in the body. I get the rest of my protein from nuts and seeds (hemp, chia and flax especially) as well as leafy greens.
  • I am taking 5,000 mg of vitamin C in the morning and at night. I am taking supplemental chlorophyll and a food based multi-vitamins.
  • Simple foods, simple digestion, more healing energy. Because I want to recover a.s.a.p. I decided to keep my digestion to the minimum effort possible so that most of my body's energy is redirected to healing, not digesting. My food intake is therefore 2/3 liquid (vegetable/fruit juices and shakes, home-made nut milks, etc) and I have one meal a day, typically dinner solid, consisting of steamed or sautéed vegetables, fermented food like sauerkraut, seeds and nuts or a salad with plenty of ginger, turmeric, basil, onions.
  • No inflammatory foods: I have cut out all inflammatory foods containing inflammatory saturated fat (red meat, chicken, eggs) and excess salt. I have cut out all sugar and flour products, the occasional coffee because of its acidity, all dairy products and of course I am still not consuming sodas and junk foods.
  • A note on papaya and pineapple. My nutritional healing encyclopedia recommends that I eat half a fresh (not canned) pineapple or fresh papaya daily as they respectively contain bromelain and papain, two enzymes that reduce swelling and inflammation within 2 to 6 days. Bromelain is also available in pill form if that much Pineapple does not work for you (not a good idea if you have diabetes for instance). I made a green smoothie with pineapple, kale, ginger and turmeric to help me with my pain.
The other factor to consider when incapacitated by pain is how much your daily level of activity is reduced. I had to reduce my calorie intake quite drastically as I am not exercising daily anymore, from 1600 to 1200 cal a day but kept my required protein intake of 44 grams. To calculate your protein needs, multiply your ideal weight in lbs by .37 or your weight in kg by .80. My intention is to eat a simple diet which is nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory yet requires little energy to digest so that my energy can be spent to rebuild my back.

When the pain is acute, no position is comfortable. The worst is laying down and sitting down. So I invested in two pieces of furniture that actually help my back muscles to relax and rest. These have been essential in times of back pain crisis:

  • An office chair that really feels good for my back when I have enough strength to work at my desk.

And finally, my favorite healing routine for the back is the Yamuna Body Rolling's series "Save Your Back". I have been using it for over 15 years and take it with me when I travel too. It is well worth the price of the kit and you can reuse the balls to care for your shoulders, knees, and roll on all your soft tissue.
AQUA wet hair 3
I am thrilled to report that I feel much better today and that the pain has considerably lessen. I just need to stick to this plan until I have recovered 100% which I hope will be by the beginning of next week. The first class I will start teaching again will be my AQUA cycling class. AQUA cycling actually feels great on injured backs with herniated discs because the buoyancy of the water carries the body. It feels like my back is supported, braced in a way. See below my videos about AQUA cycling.
If you want to try it out, simply forward my blog to and you'll be invited to attend a free AQUA class.

In health and happiness,

Warm regards,