Gut Health & Low Back Pain

Low back pain will affect approximately 84% of peopleย at some point in their life all for a variety of reasons. Injuries, poor posture, work ergonomics, lack of exercise and aging are some of the most common causes of low back pain, but recent studies indicate poor gut health may play a role as well.

The study examines the role gut health plays in intervertebral disc degeneration – is it triggered by poor gut health?

What are intervertebral discs?

Your spine has individual bones called vertebra. Each vertebra is separated by intervertebral discs that absorb shock and disperse pressure put on the spine. Discs have fibrocartilage and consist of three major components:

  1. Nucleus pulposus; a gel structure at the center of the disc which is made of water, collagen and proteoglycans
  2. Annulus fibrosus; concentric layers of collagen fibers make up the outer portion of the disc
  3. Vertebral endplates; an upper and lower endplate surround the superior and inferior aspects of the disc. They have cartilage and act as the major source of nutrition for the disc through hydration.

Discs are primarily avascular – they rely on receiving nutrition from diffusion. Diffusion involves the entrance of molecules, glucose and oxygen, into the avascular disc, and removal of waste products – called metabolites.

What causes intervertebral disc degeneration?

Discs are avascular, which increases the importance of proper nutrition and hydration in relationship to spine health. Impairment in the diffusion process leads to inflammation and increased sensitivity to pain. If a disc lacks proper nutrition, it will dry out and lose it’s ability to absorb shock and pressure, creating back pain.

What is gut health?

Gut health refers to a properly functioning gastrointestinal (GI) tract. There are five major criteria required for a healthy GI system – effective digestion and absorption of food, absence of GI illness, normal and stable intestinal microbiota, effective immune status and status of well-being. Poor gut health is dysfunction of the GI tract.

What is poor gut health?

Recent research indicates that abnormal intestinal microbiota, the third criteria for a healthy GI system, may influence intervertebral disc health and cause pathological degeneration. There are three potential mechanisms this can occur by:

  1. Movement of bacteria across the gut epithelial barrier into the intervertebral disc
  2. Disruption of the mucosal immune system
  3. Long term gut inflammation

So my gut is causing low back pain?

Lack of proper nutrition and removal of metabolites will break down discs and create low back pain. The importance of a functioning GI system that properly moves nutrients, forms protective barriers, and is non inflammatory is imperative. Consequently, gut dysfunction creates disc degeneration.

What can I do about disc degeneration?

Chiropractic care helps reduce the inflammation in your back and induce movement into your discs to help properly hydrate them. This is beneficial for patients whose gut health triggers back pain. Book an appointment with us today to have your questions about low back pain answered.


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