Can diet changes help cure chronic back pain?

NEW YORK -- Back pain is second only to common cold when it comes to people missing work, and now, a New York doctor says that for many patients, the daily discomfort is related to what they eat.

So how can those people find relief?

New Yorker Kelly Ziegenhagen had 20 years of chronic back pain before finding some.

"To wake up and have the first thing you think about be, (sigh) how am I going to get through the day?" she said. "I have a headache, I have a migraine, my neck hurts, my back hurts, and I have to go sit at the computer for another 12 hours?"

She was referred to the Midtown office of chiropractor Dr. Todd Sinett, who believes that food can cause back pain. Ziegenhagen said she got results and lost 18 pounds just by changing her diet.

"For a lot of people, one of the major factors or the cause of their back pain is the food they eat and the drinks they are drinking," Dr. Sinett said.

It starts by looking at repeatable patterns, and Kelly quickly learned her daily meals and "normal" foods were actually irritating to her body.

"I felt as far as the rest of America eats, I was eating pretty well," she said. "Granted, I would have sandwiches every day and a lot of bread and pizza, but I figured that was normal...It's mind-blowing how much he has helped me."

Foods can create inflation and irritation, and so the goal is to find the right foods for each individual, and low and behold, back pain goes away. In Dr. Sinett's book, he outlines what patients should do to begin, which is write down what they eat for seven days.

"Culprits could be typical white bread, the sugars, the pastas, the sodas, the caffeines," he said. "And that generally works for about 80 percent of the population."

Dr. Sinett works with registered dietitian Willow Jarosh to eliminate food sensitivities.

"For most people, it's blood sugar control and keeping their energy level stable and their blood sugar stable," Jarosh said. "You can make really simple things that keep your blood sugar really stable and keep energy level going far longer."

Using balanced combinations, seasonal fresh produce and avoiding the same food over and over can actually give better results than medicine at stopping inflammation and pain for patients, and a diet change for three weeks can eliminate pain altogether and even help patients avoid surgeries.

"Most people are like, well, you've got to live and how can you live without that stuff?" Ziegenhagen said. "And I say I wasn't living with that stuff. I could barely get through the day. And now, I have a lot more energy and can spend more time doing the things I love and enjoy life more because I feel good."
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