Alcoholism and back pain are closely related topics which influence each other for the worse in almost every patient profile. Regular alcohol use (and abuse) can cause or contribute to existing back ache, while chronic back pain can be the source of alcohol dependency, especially in patients who choose to avoid the risky and powerful prescription drugs often used to treat ongoing dorsalgia.
It is crucial to understand the relationship between back pain and alcohol abuse in order to prevent problematic dependency occurrences or treat existing damaging imbibing habits. I can not tell you the number and scope of the stories I have been told about alcohol abuse resulting from chronic pain. So many patients have confided in me, telling tales of terrible addictions to drink which developed as an escape for endless pain.
Research statistics also show a correlation between chronic pain, drugs addiction and alcohol abuse. Although this is a rarely considered or discussed topic, it must be laid bare and openly discussed in cases where patients recognize they are in a downward spiral of dependency.
Many patients who suffer from chronic symptoms may consider alcohol as a potential source of back pain relief. Drinking can numb pain and relax the patient, often providing as much pain management as using prescription drugs.
While conservative use of alcohol may not be harmful and may even be beneficial in some aspects of health, abusing alcohol or developing a dependency issue is never a good solution for lasting or recurrent back pain. Many patients realize the danger of constant excessive alcohol use to treat their pain, but still consider it the lesser of 2 evils compared to prescription medications which can be just as bad for their health and may also have many unwanted side effects.
On the other hand, many alcoholics develop back pain in part, or in full, due to their regular consumption of drink. Alcohol abuse is known to cause a wide range of health concerns, including many which are implicated in back pain conditions:
While I am not one to believe that normal spinal degeneration is indeed causative in many back pain syndromes, I can testify as a fitness professional that dehydration is one of the worst possible things you can impose on your body. Chronic dehydration due to alcohol abuse actually makes drastic changes in the cells of your anatomy and can certainly be the source of a variety of painful complaints. Of course, this is a minor effect compared to the far more significant damage alcohol can impose on the internal organs, such as the liver and kidneys.
Alcohol use and abuse is a touchy subject. People are highly opinionated on the topic and I can not blame them. When used in moderation and with responsibility, alcohol can enhance life, help relax a person and simply take the edge off tense moments. However, when used without careful consideration, alcohol can kill, maim or enact dire health consequences in yourself and others.
I spent most of my adult life completely abstaining from alcohol use, simply as a personal choice. Later in life, I realized that too much self discipline and self imposed rules can be just as bad as too few. Now, I allow myself the joy of social drink, but do not take it to an extreme. As far as my own experience with back pain and alcohol, I realized that when used conservatively, there may be some benefit with a drink or 2. When pushed past this limit, the effects are often reversed, immediately or eventually, with increased pain a direct result of too much consumption.
I do not recommend alcohol as a back pain treatment.