You know blood circulates in your body and that without it you could not live. What you may not know, however, is that aside from being a vital nutritive substance blood can also be a cause of pain. In fact, many forms of pain, illness and disease can be linked to, or are caused by, what I refer to as “bad blood.”
Bad blood is when blood is in a state that can harm the body. These states are found in the form of “excesses” (e.g., too many toxins), “stagnations” (e.g., trigger points), and “deficiencies” (e.g., low levels of oxygen). The following list of common ailments related to the quality of blood paints a picture of how many different issues are related to the quality of our blood.
- 25.1 million Americans live with heart disease
- 32 percent of Americans suffer hypertension
- 12 percent of females over age 20 are deficient in iron
- 16 percent of adults have high-cholesterol
- One in six Americans contract arthritis
- 26 million Americans, between ages 20 and 64, suffer back pain
Pain is among the top reported reasons patients visit their primary care physicians. In fact, 150 million Americans suffer chronic pain annually. The chronic experience of pain is responsible for the billion-dollar nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) industry. (These are pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.)
There are many causes of pain including stress, injury, tight or pulled muscles, a sedentary lifestyle, inflammation, acid/alkaline imbalance and trigger points. All of these affect the quality and motility (or spontaneous movement) of blood and/or can be caused by bad blood.
Blood is an essential body fluid that serves two purposes. It rejuvenates cells by bringing to them substances like oxygen and nutrients and it cleans cells by carrying away their toxic waste products. When body processes are hindered by incorrect diet, lack of water, stress, high acidity levels, trauma or disease, then blood’s role in maintaining homeostasis (body balance) is hindered… and pain, including back pain, is the result.
Food is such an important piece of the good blood equation. Blood plasma is a liquid component of blood that contains sugars, proteins, minerals and other substances. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and high in whole grains will do much to provide depth of nutrients to build blood. But blood also needs soluble fiber to clean it and insoluble fiber to remove toxins from the body through the stools. A nutrient deficient diet can cause bad blood which then can cause back pain.
Water is also an important component of good blood because plasma, which is 90 percent water by volume, actually comprises 55 percent of the blood fluid. Drinking plenty of fluids is a holistic way of relieving and preventing back pain.
But not all fluids are created equal. Beverages like coffee, tea, energy drinks and sodas are loaded with caffeine, sugars and chemicals that not only act as diuretics (transporting too much fluid from the blood) but are also high in toxins. These toxins, if they remain in the blood, cause bad blood — stagnations in blood motility (movement rate) via inflammation while also causing blood to become too acidic.
Indeed, maintaining the proper acid/alkaline equation (or pH balance) in the blood is an essential component to the blood/back pain connection. When blood acid levels are too high, muscle contractions can result. When muscles contract they cause limited range of motion and put pressure on nerves, prevent fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to enter the tissue and prevent the efficient removal of carbon dioxide and other toxic substance from it. All of this causes pain.
If blood alkaline is raised and acid reduced, then muscle relaxation occurs. This allows for pain relief through the proper absorption of nutrients and transportation of waste products from the blood and tissues. Maintaining a blood pH of 7.4 is an essential component of pain-free living.
The negative effects of stress are also a leading cause of bad blood in pain. Stress constricts muscles in the body, lowers the amount of oxygen and increases acidity levels in the blood and tissues in the body. Deep breathing relaxation techniques not only reduce stress levels but also control pH. Stress causes shallow breathing and limited respiration, thus causing pain. Breathing exercises reverse this process.
Many chronic pain sufferers are fast to grab over-the-counter NSAIDs for temporary relief; and doctors advise their use. Yet these actually cause more long-term harm than short-term good. NSAIDs leave toxins in the blood, causing bad blood. They can also cause intestinal bleeding and are harmful to those suffering high blood pressure and kidney disease. Other painkillers, like acetaminophen, are harmful to the liver (which cleanses the blood) and the kidneys (which help move toxins out of the body) and do not reduce inflammation — three reasons to avoid taking it.
So what are the solutions to correcting bad blood in those suffering pain? The answer is found in a comprehensive overhaul of diet (food and water), breathing exercises for stress relief and oxygenation of blood and regular exercise to stimulate blood flow and removal of toxins. Along the way, safe temporary relief can be found by visiting massage therapists, acupuncturists and other bodywork practitioners, as well as engaging in yoga, tai chi and meditation. In the end, keeping your blood clean and moving in the tissues are positive steps toward back pain relief and prevention.
— Dr. Mark Wiley