3 Unusual Causes Of Spinal Pain

While spinal pain is often the result of overuse, strains, or sprains, there are other, less common causes. Before your physician implements an effective treatment plan to manage your pain, he or she will need to determine the cause. If the cause of your discomfort remains unclear, your doctor may refer you to a back pain management facility for further evaluation and treatment. Here are three unusual causes of spinal pain and what you can do about them:

Sinus Infection 

Both viral and bacterial infections of the sinus cavity can cause the expression of chemicals known as pro-inflammatory cytokines. When large amounts of cytokines are released into the bloodstream, it can trigger a systemic inflammatory response. When this happens, not only can the symptoms of your sinus infection worsen, but you may also experience spinal pain, muscle soreness, and weakness.

To reduce your risk for back pain related to systemic inflammation, consider taking an over-the-counter antihistamine such as diphenhydramine, which may inhibit cytokine release while dampening systemic inflammation.

Antihistamines may also help improve the symptoms of your sinus infection such as a runny nose and post nasal drip. Not only can chronic sinus infections trigger pain-causing inflammation inside your body, but they can also cause prolonged low-grade fevers. When your body temperature is consistently elevated, you may experience muscle and joint pain, spinal pain, and weakness. 

Nightshade Foods

Certain foods known as nightshades can also trigger systemic inflammation and subsequent spinal pain. Nightshade foods include tomatoes, green peppers, and eggplant. There are substances in the pigmented skins of these vegetables that are thought to cause an inflammatory response that contributes to pain.

If you believe you have a nightshade sensitivity but do not want to give up the aforementioned foods, eat them cooked instead of raw. The cooking process may inactivate much of the pro-inflammatory chemicals in the skins so that you can enjoy the vegetables without risking a negative response.

You can also enjoy store-bought tomato and vegetable juices because the pasteurization process also removes some of the offending substances from the skins. If you believe you have a nightshade allergy because of spinal pain after eating foods that contain them, make an appointment with an allergist, who may be able to determine if you have a true allergy or simply a sensitivity. 


Cigarette smoking has the ability to damage capillaries. When this happens, impaired circulation may result, causing back pain, weakness, and sore muscles. If you smoke, try cutting down. If you are unable to quit or cut down on your own, make an appointment with your doctor. He or she will recommend effective smoking cessation treatment options such as nicotine replacement patches or gum, oral medications, or hospital-based smoking support groups.

Once you have quit smoking, capillary function will eventually recover; however, it may take weeks to months before optimal circulation is established. Once effective blood flow to your spine and surrounding structures has been reestablished, your pain will decrease and you may notice an improvement in your range-of-motion and flexibility.

Smoking can also suppress your immune system which can raise your risk for infections, which may also lead to spinal pain. It can also exacerbate pulmonary conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. If you have COPD, your lungs may produce thick mucus that makes you cough, causing severe spinal pain. This condition can also cause shortness of breath and wheezing, also promoters of back and spinal pain. 

If you develop spinal pain, talk to your doctor about back pain management treatment options. When the cause of spinal pain is recognized and treated, you are less likely to develop long-term complications such as balance problems, limited mobility, referred pain to your neck, hips, and legs, weakness, and fatigue.