“The biology of pain is never really straightforward, even when it appears to be.”
— Lorimer Moseley, PhD FACP
I started to experience chronic pain in my lower back in my mid-20s. This was when I began working full-time in IT support and the desk job meant a lot more sitting compared to my previous teaching position.
Was my back pain caused by a change in my daily posture? No. But it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Meaning the highly inflammatory lifestyle I was living was the actual underlying cause of the pain, but the change in job and how I moved pushed my back over the edge into the pain-zone.
Back pain is one of the leading causes of disability and about 80% of people will experience some form of back pain during their lifetime. Whether it’s acute, lasting less than six weeks, or chronic with some people living with it for years, back pain will negatively impact your ability to work, to play, and to function in society, i.e. have fun and enjoy life.
Well-known causes for back pain include:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor posture
- Repetitive movement
- Faulty movement pattern
What I’ll be exploring here are some unfamiliar causes for back pain all relating to your mouth.
But before I get into the connection between your mouth and your back health I’ll talk little bit about pain in general.
Pain is your body’s way of communicating to you that something is malfunctioning and needs your attention. This pain and malfunction is a result of inflammation caused by some type of stressor. This stress could be physical, mental/emotional, or biochemical/physiological. Whatever the stress, the area it manifests in your body will become inflamed and this activates your immune system where it will begin to eliminate foreign material and infections, as well as clean up and repair old and damaged tissue.
If this stress becomes chronic the inflamed organs, gland, or tissue will never have a chance to heal, causing you to experience chronic pain.
How Your Mouth Contributes to Back Pain
One way your mouth can contribute to back pain is with the foods you eat. By eating a pro-inflammatory diet which causes stress in your gastrointestinal tract. This stress causes gut irritation and gut inflammation. How does this relate to back pain?
Your organs and muscles share the same pain nerve fibres. Your heart for example shares these fibres with your arms, which is why you’ll experience pain, numbing, and tingling in your arms during a heart attack. Your stomach, liver, small intestines, and colon innervate with your abdominal and back muscles. If you experience a lot of gas, bloating, and abdominal distension, these are symptoms that your digestive organs are stressed and inflamed and this can cause back pain due to the firing of pain nerve fibres connecting these organs to your back muscles.
Another way your mouth can cause back pain comes down to dental health. The health of your teeth has a massive impact on the health of the rest of your body as your teeth are directly linked to all your major organs by way of acupuncture meridians. Meridians are energy channels or pathways in which energy flows. Each of your organs, glands, and tissues connect to specific meridians. Many of these meridians end in teeth, therefore connecting specific organs to each tooth.
If you have swollen gums, tooth decay, mercury or inorganic fillings, incorrectly fitted orthodontics, root canals, malocclusion, or missing teeth, this will cause a disruption or blockage in your meridians, causing malfunction and problems with the organ(s) connected to that meridian. When the meridians connected to your gut are disrupted due to poor dental health, this can potentially cause gut inflammation and back pain.
You can find a meridian tooth chart at Ora Wellness mapping out teeth with their related meridians and organs.
Last thing I’ll mention regarding your mouth and back pain is how you’re breathing.
Chronic mouth breathing, particularly inhaling through the mouth, can activate the sympathetic nervous system, turning on your body’s stress response. The stress response creates a hormonal cascade where anabolic/growth and repair hormones are suppressed due to the high amounts of catabolic/breaking down and stress hormones circulating in your body. This isn’t an issue if the stress is acute and short-lived, but if the stress is ongoing this chronic catabolic state will increase inflammation and reduce healing of your gut, and healing of your back muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
The more stressed and catabolic and inflamed your body becomes, the longer your back pain will persist.
Your Mouth and Healing Back Pain
Healing back pain takes a holistic approach. Standard ways to heal from back pain include moving and stretching your body, and visiting a chiropractor or acupuncturist or physiotherapist or all of the above.
Here I share three mouth-related ways to reduce inflammation and increase meridian flow, and when integrated with other healing modalities your back pain will reduce significantly and potentially disappear.
1. Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
By eating less pro-inflammatory foods that trigger gut irritation and inflammation you reduce your chances of getting gas, bloating, distension, abdominal cramps, and back pain.
An anti-inflammatory diet consists of whole real foods from plant and animal sources. This means local organically grown vegetables and fruit, and meat from animals raised in their natural habitat eating their natural diet.
More importantly an anti-inflammatory diet removes industrial seed oils and processed and refined sugars and grains, which are two of the most inflammatory and acidic foods in existence.
2. Detoxify Your Teeth
Use non-toxic sulfate-free and fluoride-free organic oral care products and stop using anti-microbial mouth washes like Listerine as these upset the good-to-bad ratio of microorganisms in your mouth.
Remove any metal and inorganic fillings you might have. When it comes to replacing mercury or silver fillings be sure to find a holistic biological dentist. If mercury fillings are not removed properly you could find yourself getting a toxic load of mercury in your system creating more health problems.
A root canal is a cesspool of pathogenic microorganisms and their toxic byproducts. If you have a root canal it might pay to get yours looked at by a holistic biological dentist.
To find a holistic biological dentist visit the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology website as well as the Mercury Safe Dentists website.
3. Breathe diaphragmatic belly breaths through your nose
Your nose has parasympathetic nerve endings that are stimulated every time you inhale. By inhaling through your nose you activate the parasympathetic nervous system which puts you in a calm, connect, rest, and digest state.
Each time you expand and contract your diaphragm and belly you are giving your internal organs (including your gut) a nice little massage improving blood and lymph flow, which helps with nutrient absorption and waste removal.
Belly and nose breathing puts your body into an non-stressed anabolic state of growth and repair, reducing inflammation and pain in your back.
It is true that back pain can be a symptom of physical/biomechanical damage and injury to your back muscles, tendons, ligaments, and lumbar spine.
However, it is also true that back pain can come from physiological/biochemical stress due to poor diet, poor dental health, and incorrect breathing patterns. By eating real food, removing toxins from your mouth, and breathing correctly, you will reduce the amount of stress and inflammation contributing to your back pain.