You've been working out. You have a strong core. You eat right. You take breaks at your office job. But your back is still killing you. What is going on?

As a second generation chiropractor, I've learned that your diet and emotional health can play a big role in your back pain. In short, stress in your mind and around your digestive system can cause the muscles around your back to tighten up, causing pain. Yes, the basic structural causes of back pain may not be the primary sources of it.

Take for example one of my patients who tells me she has been very healthy and “juicing" to lose weight. In my head I thought: “So she thinks it's good for her just to drink juice and not eat a variety of healthy foods?"

Therein lies a problem.

Too much of the same thing can really tax your digestive system. The all-juice diet (which can be laden with sugar) was irritating her stomach and causing her unbearable back pain. So please eat healthy, but in a varied, sensible way. Switch it up and try to stay away from excess sugar and caffeine.

Another patient told me that aside from his back pain, he was doing great in life. He was eating healthy food and exercising five-times-a-week. He was a top executive at a midtown firm with a loving and supportive family.

So I went through my assessment, which involves muscle testing where I push against my patient's arm as they hold it up. This test shows what areas in our lives are strong points and what are weak ones. When I asked him if anything was bothering him at work, his arm fell weak.

“Whoa! What's going on?" he asked.

The more we talked we discovered that one particular co-worker had been stressing him out. So he worked on how to deal with this person and came to a solution on how he would manage this relationship. Sure enough, when I saw him again in a few weeks, his back was feeling much better.

But structural causes are also very real…

If you are reading this blog, there's a high probability you are into working out. So my message to you is to pay close attention to how you work out. Muscles do not work in isolation, so it's important to make sure that support muscles and opposing muscle groups get equal attention in your workouts. (See some of our Top 5 Functional Training Mistakes).

For every pushing move, make sure you are counteracting that with a pulling motion. A deadlift is powerful pull that is best balanced with a squat, which is a superb pushing motion. If you bike, mix it up with running too. Many of us favor moves that we are good at, so work extra hard at the moves or disciplines you don't excel at. That effort is worth it and is a great way to discover balance in your workout.

All this balancing promotes a healthy back, which is central to how your entire body functions. I talk to my patients a lot about core imbalance, which is caused by long hours sitting at a desk. To reverse the effects of the forward hunch or C-shaped forward curvature of the spine, I recommend stretches such as the Cobra Pose in yoga or using a device called the BackBridge, both of which promote extension and stretch the back in the opposite direction that the forward hunch puts your shoulders in.

The Takeaway

Before you immediately try to treat your back for your back pain, consider what you've been eating as well as if there has been some emotional stress in your life recently. People tend to forget how important it is to eat in a balanced, healthy manner as a key to overall health. Here are some daily tips to ward off back pain:

  1. Keep a food diary and figure out what foods upset your digestive system.
  2. Try yoga, meditation or tai chi to calm the mind and relieve tension and anxiety.
  3. Stretch often.
  4. If you sit in a chair all day, take breaks around the office.
  5. Take walks.

Make sure you get a proper diagnosis for your back pain and explore all of your treatment options before resorting to medication or surgery. Many people want to just treat areas of the back, but my experience has taught me that there can be many causes of back pain. What I want to impress upon people is before you treat your back for back pain, take a look at your complete health spectrum for possible underlying causes.

- Dr. Todd Sinett, NYC-based chiropractor and author of 3 Weeks to a Better Back, where you can find more specifics on eliminating back pain - from exercises to recipes and much more.

About Dr. Sinett: Dr. Todd Sinett, a NYC-based chiropractor, challenges the current approach to back pain with a three-pronged approach that addresses structural, emotional and dietary factors to identify and treat the root cause of the pain in order to help his patients lead healthier, happier lives. Devoted to providing his expertise beyond his clientele, Sinett is the author of 3 Weeks to a Better Back (October 2015), and The Truth About Back Pain, his first title. Sinett is also the creator of the BackBridge™ System, the first and only back pain device developed to help relieve core imbalance with stackable levels to help users gain flexibility and improve the health of their spine in just two minutes a day. For more information about Dr. Sinett, please visit

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