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Foods That Help Manage Chronic Back Pain

MIAMI (CBS4) -- Billions of dollars are spent every year on over-the-counter and prescription drugs seeking relief for back pain. Some health experts now recommend turning to your refrigerator, instead of your medicine cabinet, for help.

Dental hygienist Mary Ann Delaney's back was always in pain.

"It was debilitating. I would be in tears by the end of my work day," explained Delaney.

Her back pain was so severe, it was ruining her life. Her weight wasn't helping. Delaney was 215 pounds. Now she is 70 pounds lighter and she credits an "anti-inflammation" diet as the secret of her weight loss and pain-free life.

Pain expert Dr. Mark Darrow is 100-percent convinced many people can be pain-free by changing their diet. He suggests more protein, more water, and more vegetables.

Researchers at Michigan State University found a chemical in tart cherries that has anti-inflammatory properties. And when it comes to veggies, experts say, the greener the better. Try kale, spinach, broccoli. And when it comes to fruit, pile on the dark berries.

Olive oil, green tea, and brightly-colored fruits and vegetables all have been proven to lessen inflammation in cartilage in the spinal column — that also helps control back pain and stiffness.

Researchers say also get rid of processed foods, and fast food which can cause inflammation.

Dr. Jason Hymes, a specialist in pain medication, says science is backing up doctors who ease back pain with food.

"Saturated fats (the bad fats) also seem to be pro-inflammatory," said Dr. Hymes. "On the other hand, fatty acids found in foods like salmon, walnuts and sardines are thought to be anti-inflammatory."

So here's the prescription from Dr. Darrow:

Vegetables, but avoid starchy one like potatoes
Fruits/mostly berries
Proteins/if you eat red meat buy grass fed, it's high in omega three fatty acids
Vitamins, especially D

All processed foods
No grains, no flours, no dairy which can be inflammatory
Caffeine and alcohol

It's working for Mary Anne. She's no longer in pain and is even back to running.

"When you start to see the results you can do things you never thought you'd be able to do, that's the reward and it's just great," she said.

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