What Causes Upper Back Pain After Drinking Alcohol?

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Most adults will experience some form of upper back pain in their lifetime. Though it may disappear for 1 to 2 weeks or after a good night’s sleep, the pain may persist due to lifestyle choices or a developing health condition. One factor that contributes to upper back pain is your alcohol consumption.

So why do you have upper back pain after drinking alcohol? Though consuming alcohol may provide short-term pain relief, drinking it frequently in large quantities will have harmful effects that will prolong and increase upper back pain such as dehydration, weight gain, and kidney damage.

How Alcohol Contributes to Back Pain

The body goes through many different changes as it digests alcohol and introduces it into the bloodstream — affecting the muscles and other bodily systems. Frequent heavy drinking will increase the likelihood of these adverse effects and damage your kidneys, which can also lead to further upper back pain and lower back pain. 

How Alcohol Increases the Risk of Upper Back Pain

For upper back pain in particular, these are the factors that will raise its likelihood and pain level as it affects your entire body and generates harmful bodily developments. 

1) Alcohol Dehydrates the Body 

Alcohol’s presence in the body alters how it processes water by reducing the amount of vasopressin produced, a hormone that controls how much water your body intakes. It’s also a diuretic — passing through the bloodstream much quicker than other liquids while absorbing water and salt from your kidneys.  

If you don’t drink enough water with the alcohol you consume, your kidneys will leech it from your muscles and bones. In the upper back, this will decrease the size of the intervertebral discs in the painal column — a cushion mostly made up of water that prevents the bones in your spine from grinding against each other. 

2) Alcohol Contributes to Weight Gain

Your body weight affects how much load your upper back must carry on a daily basis. If you are overweight or near that level, your midsection pushes the pelvis forward to accommodate the extra mass, forcing your spine to curve out of its alignment. It may also increase the chances of lower back pain.

Alcohol will slow down your metabolism because your body considers it a toxin. Thus it will prioritize digesting it first before other nutrients, which may increase weight again especially if you consume the salty and fatty snacks that are usually paired with alcoholic drinks. 

3) Alcohol Damages the Kidneys

Dehydration and the diuretic properties of alcohol can also harm the kidneys. Kidney pain may even be mistaken as back pain. They play a central role in flushing alcohol out of the body but may be damaged from frequent alcohol consumption thereby affecting blood circulation.  

Muscles need water and nutrients delivered from blood to maintain their integrity and form. Poor circulation will prevent your muscles from receiving the vitamins they need for their maintenance. Other symptoms such as lower back pain, neck pain, and chest pain may also signal significant damage to your kidneys. 

Upper Back Pain May Be a Symptom of Liver Disease 

The main organ that is affected by alcohol consumption is the liver. Liver disease brought out by alcohol abuse such as alcoholic related liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis may manifest as upper abdominal pain, shoulder pain, and upper back pain through the inflammation of liver cells. This is because the liver lacks any nerves and will instead respond to damage from its nearby tissues.  

Other indicators of liver disease include darkly colored urine, chronic fatigue, nausea, jaundice, and loss of appetite. Consult a doctor if you have these symptoms along with upper back pain, shoulder pain, or abdominal pain.

How to Ease Back Pain Caused by Frequent Alcohol Consumption

Once you recognize the negative effects of alcohol toward your body, you can start repairing it through these effective measures. These steps may not completely eliminate upper back pain, but it may relieve some of it as well as strengthen the body to become resistant to it.  

1) Gradually Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Frequent binge drinking sessions will wear down your kidneys and liver making your body more susceptible to back pain. Try lowering your alcohol consumption to moderate drinking levels to prevent hefty withdrawal symptoms. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans describes moderate alcohol intake as up to two drinks for men and up to one drink for women. 

However, drinking alcohol within moderate levels still increases your chances of heart disease, acute pancreatitis, and liver cancer, despite the health benefits it may give. If you are struggling with adjusting your heavy drinking habits, you may need to seek out other forms of addiction treatment. 

2) Stop Eating Salty Snacks With Alcohol

Another detrimental factor is eating salty food that tastes well with alcohol like potato chips, packaged pretzels, and pizza rolls. Your body craves salty foods after drinking alcohol because it needs to replenish with sodium, water, and other nutrients from digesting your alcoholic beverage. This will only make you want to drink more alcohol in the process.

This combination will increase the likelihood of fatty liver disease, chronic pancreatitis, and kidney pain which may develop into kidney disease overtime. Instead of salty snacks, recharge your body by eating vegetables and fruits that are water-rich, nutritious, and easy to digest like watermelon, cucumber, and bananas.

3) Drink More Fluids

Drinking alcohol can be done without repercussions by drinking more water to replace fluids lost by digesting alcohol. This will lower kidney damage and liver damage while maintaining your blood pressure to ease your back pain and other chronic pain in your body. 

It will also help to eat and drink water well before drinking alcohol to prevent stomach pain, gallstones, and pancreatitis. Consuming other drinks that are high in electrolytes like Gatorade and coconut water or rich in vitamins like orange juice and pear juice will also provide what the body needs after expelling alcohol from its system.

4) Avoid Drinking Alcohol as a Pain Reliever 

Alcohol use could instantly relieve some bodily pain, but the long-term health effects make it an insufficient treatment and turn into substance abuse. Your body also becomes increasingly tolerant to alcohol’s side effects as you consume more and grow older, forcing you to drink more to feel numb to the pain.   

Frequent heavy drinking may develop into an alcohol addiction. The American Addiction Center defines it as “craving for alcohol and the inability to stop drinking despite any negative impacts.” Consider your reasons for drinking alcohol and seek other pain medication to relieve the upper back pain instead.   

Effective Pain Relief Services at Gramercy Pain Center

Though upper back pain does not have a singular cause, gradually lowering the amount of alcohol you drink will benefit your body in the long run. However, upper back pain may persist due to other sources and will require professional diagnosis and treatment to alleviate it.

At Gramercy Pain Center, you’ll be able to tackle your upper back pain with the guidance of our expert team of doctors and physicians. We offer a wide range of effective pain relief treatments so that you can spend your days with a healthy body and ease of mind. Start now by scheduling an appointment with us online

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