Can calcium help your back pain?

“Eat your vegetables!” It’s a phrase every child dreads hearing. But what about adults? Have you heard this recently from your primary care physician? Or maybe your physical therapist told you this because vegetables provide calcium, and that’s something young and old alike can profit from.

Calcium is a multitasking mineral that can help your body in some surprising ways. If you have back pain especially, calcium might be the missing link to finding some relief.

Why calcium? – Calcium is a superperformer in the world of vitamins and minerals. Researchers have seen its impact on numerous body processes such as hormone and enzyme release, nerve connections, blood flow, muscle movement, and last, but certainly not least, bone strength. Being a mineral, calcium is not produced by your body. Since it’s needed for many things, your body will strip calcium from your bones if it doesn’t receive it from your diet.

Calcium and back pain – Calcium can affect back pain in a few different ways. Over time, lack of calcium can weaken bones in your spine, leading to compression fractures or spinal curvature, among other problems, all of which cause pain. But calcium is also essential for maintaining good muscle tone and promoting nerve health. When calcium is lacking, your muscles and nerves pay the price, and you feel the pain.

Calcium from your food – The best way to ensure you have enough calcium, and to help your body absorb it, is to have a varied diet. Dairy products are rich in this mineral, as are dark, leafy vegetables. Kale, broccoli and spinach are some of your best choices when looking for calcium. And don’t assume that vegetables are bland additions to the dinner plate.  Cook up a quick spinach omelet with cheese for a double dose of calcium in the morning. At dinner time, you can easily roast some vegetables like broccoli and zucchini. Visit websites like Cooking Light to discover easy and creative vegetable recipes; with minimal effort, you can yield some great and delicious side dishes rich in calcium. Certain types of fish, like salmon, have high amounts of calcium as well. A cup of plain yogurt makes an easy snack and has around 400 mg of calcium. Finally, check food labels to see if calcium is listed; you might be surprised to find decent amounts added to certain juices, cereals and breads.

 

Take a supplement – For some, a dietary calcium supplement is easier to track than watching your daily diet. The National Institutes of Health explains in more detail the ins and outs of supplementing your diet with calcium, but one key thing to remember is that your body uses calcium best when you spread it throughout the day. Doctors recommend taking no more than 500 mg at one time to ensure optimal use. Since 1000­–1,200 mg is recommended daily, taking two supplements over the course of your day would be helpful.

Ensuring you have enough calcium in your diet will slow the loss of the mineral from your bones, thus keeping them strong and protecting you from pain.

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