Those looking to treat back pain without medication may be happy to know that a cup of coffee in the morning may do the trick. Understanding the relationship between caffeine and pain will help you use this substance responsibly.
Caffeine molecules bind to adenosine receptors in the body. Adenosine is a chemical in the body’s central nervous system that is involved with the processing of pain signals. Though its exact mechanisms aren’t understood, the chemical is found in high concentrations in patients with headaches and migraines. By binding to its receptors, caffeine prevents adenosine from doing so. This is believed to have a pain relieving effect by interfering with the communication of pain from nerves to the brain which results in the feeling of pain. Caffeine is a ingredient in some over-the-counter pain relievers for this reason.
A recent study out of the University of Oslo tested the effects a cup of coffee has on the pain experienced by office workers. Half of the study’s participants were instructed to drink a cup with breakfast, while the others had none. Participants then proceeded to do 90 minutes of seated work at their computers. Though participants from both groups experienced some pain in the neck, back, arms and wrists, pain levels among the coffee drinkers were notably lower. More on this study can be found at
Still, there is some debate over whether or not caffeine and back pain have the opposite relationship. Some maintain that drinking coffee will increase your levels of pain. Caffeine increases the risk of osteoporosis, for example, by causing calcium to be excreted in urine. According to Care2.com, this calcium loss can be counteracted by ingesting 2 tablespoons of milk or yogurt for each cup of coffee you drink. Some maintain that coffee increases inflammation within the body, a major factor in a number of pain conditions. Research on this, however, is mixed. Many studies actually support the anti-inflammatory properties of caffeine.
The answer to the debate over coffee seems to be moderation. Consuming large quantities of coffee on a regular basis can lead to dehydration, withdrawals, muscle tension and the depletion of minerals, all of which can cause back pain. People may also experience back pain upon drinking coffee if it triggers digestive problems such as heartburn or bloating, which are common side effects among people sensitive to caffeine or who have preexisting digestive disorders. Pain from the chest and abdomen often refers to the back due to proximity.
If you have aches and pains at the start of your day, a cup of coffee may be as effective as NSAIDs at reducing pain. Knowing the pros and cons of any pain management option will allow you to make good choices.