The role of acid levels in our bodies and the contribution that high acid levels make to chronic pain has been a big question in my mind. I treat chronic pain patients in my Boston area Neuromuscular Therapy office and have experimented with this idea, having patients test their urine pH and make changes to their diets and exercise habits to make their bodies more alkaline. I have found significant results in a few of them. Pain levels decreased!
Recently I read an article in my professional journal* about breathing evaluation, linking back and neck pain to breathing difficulties. The author stated that faulty breathing “may have negative consequences on respiratory chemistry. Changes in respiratory chemistry can have profound effects on body system function,” “recognized for many years as a potential source of a wide variety of unexplained symptoms.” The respiratory chemistry shows that when excess carbon dioxide is exhaled, the pH becomes more alkaline in the blood, the fluids in the brain and spine, and the fluids around our cells.
The article goes on to say that manual therapy, education and exercise have been found to be beneficial, but that not all patients are helped by these interventions. There is much in the literature about the beneficial effects of exercise on conditions like fibromyalgia. Manual therapies like massage, Neuromuscular Therapy and Physical Therapy have plenty of research supporting their connection to pain reduction. All of these move the fluids in our bodies.
What is most important here is to increase the flow of oxygenated blood and move acidic fluids out from around the nerves and muscles. Deep breathing brings oxygen to soft tissues and removes CO2 during exhalation, decreasing acid levels. The mechanics of breathing are important, exercising the muscles of respiration, expanding the rib cage and “massaging” the organs.
I would like to suggest that those of you out there in chronic pain get a simple pH test kit from your pharmacy and see what your acid level is. If you are consistently acidic, think seriously about increasing exercise to make you move and breathe deeply, eating more alkaline forming foods and less acid forming foods, and adding a green drink to your daily intake. (Naked, Bolthouse and Odwalla can be found in the supermarket and places like Starbucks. Health food places have powders that you can mix up.) It can’t hurt to try. Give it a trial for a month and see if you don’t feel better!
My theory is that when there are too many acids in the fluids that bathe the muscle and nerve cells, it irritates the nerves and causes inflammation and pain. There doesn’t seem to be much in the literature about this. I’ll keep looking!
*”Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies,” Vol 13, No 3, July 2009, pp 276-277