Alcohol and the Risk of Back Pain

Does regularly drinking alcohol increase your risk of back pain? Earlier research has shown that people who smoke are more likely to suffer from back pain and musculoskeletal conditions. Quitting smoking may even lead to an improvement in symptoms for patients with spinal pain. But can patients experience the same pain-alleviating effects by altering their alcohol consumption?

To answer that question, researchers from the University of Sydney performed a meta-analysis of 26 studies on the relationship between back pain and alcohol consumption.

Nine of the cross-sectional studies showed a slight association between alcohol intake and low-back pain. However, this link was less strong after controlling for alcohol abuse and dependence. Additionally the remaining studies did not tend to show a significant correlation between drinking and back pain.About a third of the studies also looked at whether how often people drank affected their risk of back pain, but no substantial relationship was established.

"Alcohol consumption appears to be associated with complex and chronic LBP only in people with alcohol consumption dependence," the researchers concluded. "Clinicians in the musculoskeletal field could use this information to design educational strategies for this population."

It's still unclear whether modifying alcohol consumption could have a direct impact on back pain, and researchers suggested the need for additional research.

Researchers also wondered whether moderate alcohol consumption could have a protective effect on the future risk of back pain, since earlier studies have shown that moderate drinking may ease fibromyalgia and prevent cardiovascular events.


Henrique Ferreira P, et al. Is alcohol intake associated with low back pain? A systemic review of observational studies. Manual Therapy 2013;18:183-190.