Pain and pH: The Connection

Pain and pH: The Connection

By Andrea Bartels CNP NNCP RNT
Registered Nutritional Therapist

14 Apr 2022

Pain and pH: The Connection

Could acid be playing a role in your musculoskeletal pain?  After all, Medicine acknowledged long ago that the painful phenomenon of gout is caused by excess uric acid in the blood. So, isn’t it time that we consider the impact of systemic acidity on chronic pain conditions such as tendonitis, back pain, arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases as well?

The Body: An Acid Factory

Our bodies are acid factories, generating all kinds of acidic metabolic waste products from breathing, eating and exercising that must be excreted via the bowel or kidney so they don’t damage tissues. Without well-functioning kidneys, the effects of these acids on our health would be disastrous. Just ask a person with chronic kidney disease about what they went through before obtaining dialysis or a transplant, and you will see how acids harm the body: nausea, muscle cramps, chest pain, water retention, fatigue, weakness,…the list goes on. Did you notice that pain is on the list, twice?  Acids are poisonous to the body and must be neutralized or excreted, but how? A well-functioning urinary system, plus alkaline buffering systems within the blood that are composed of calcium, magnesium, potassium and even sodium compounds protect the body from the damaging effects of its own waste products.

Lower pH Equals More Pain

An interesting Japanese experiment in which a variety of acidic solutions with a pH lower than or equal to 6.0 were randomly and directly infused into the skin of healthy male volunteers. The results? The volunteers expressed a higher intensity of pain when the more acidic solutions were administered.  This finding lends itself to the idea that pain—as a symptom of inflammation and tissue damage—can be caused by unbuffered acidity anywhere in the body.

Chronic Tendonitis

Of all the body’s tissues, tendons have some of the poorest blood supply—which has been described as a reason for their slow recovery from injury.  Other than prescribing rest, doctors are often at a loss as to how to treat these tissues with the fear that continued use of the tendon may cause further, possibly permanent damage.  For this reason the following observations by Germans Molllenhauer and Werner are encouraging for those with Achilles tendonitis or tendon insertion irritation.  The group of athletes who took alkaline minerals over the course of 2 months, when compared to the placebo group, had significantly decreased pain intensity, even if they were exercising more, allowing them to have fewer disruptions to their training schedule.  It was suggested that the reason for this difference was the acid-buffering effects of the alkaline minerals protected the tendon structures from further damage and reduced pain sensitivity.

Degenerative disc disease

Intervertebral discs are another type of tissue that’s avascular (with very poor blood supply), which means little oxygen reaches these discs. This may make them more sensitive to the decreases in pH that’s created by lactic acid—an acid generated by anaerobic processes. The spine works hard to keep us standing and sitting erect, and must remain flexible.  It’s no wonder then that large amounts of lactic acid are produced in the spine, with concentrations up to 10 times greater than in the blood. The pH of the vertebral disc center is therefore acidic.  That’s why it was interesting when researchers Vormann et al. demonstrated that administration of an alkaline supplement to patients with chronic back pain for 1 month produced improvements in mobility, sensitivity and pain in these subjects. In fact, the amount of painkiller medication taken by the patients was reduced dramatically as their pain index scores improved. This suggests that despite the higher tolerance vertebral discs seem to have against their own acidity, the acidity generated by the inflammatory state benefits from alkaline buffers. 


The synthesis of cartilage-building components such as proteoglycans in other locations of the body is negatively affected by acidity. Old cartilage can no longer be sufficiently replaced by new cartilage under acidic circumstances, and the result is pain and swelling of the damaged joint.  But even the elderly can benefit from alkaline mineral salts, as seen in a South African placebo-controlled crossover study of 98 seniors with osteoarthritis of the hands. Results showed that administration of salts of calcium, potassium and magnesium twice daily significantly reduced symptoms of pain after just 2 weeks of use in these seniors. Remarkably, these improvements continued after 4 weeks, despite the fact that the study did not require dietary changes on the part of its participants.

Alkalinize and Protect

Pure Lab Vitamins’ AlkaPure pH is an acid-buffering formula of mineral salts that may provide the support needed by those suffering from chronic musculoskeletal pain such as those types described here.  The formula can also be beneficial for individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, gout, tennis elbow, and even GERD—problems often seen in those with acid-forming (processed) diets.  Use of AlkaPure pH as maintenance should be considered to allow the body to effectively deal with acidic metabolic waste products and mediate recurring inflammation.

Benefits of Buffering

To summarize, buffering systemic body acidity has three main benefits to the musculoskeletal system. For one, it may reduce sensory perception of pain in the inflamed area, and two, correcting the pH that the tissues are bathed in brings about the body’s natural healing processes where pain and inflammation already exist.  Plus, regular alkalinisation may support natural processes that reduce the risk of injury to these tissues.  It’s never too late to begin buffering. Why not start now with a formulation like Alkapure pH?



Jarvis Health. “Tissue pH status in relation to Muscle and Joint Pains.” 13th July 2018. Accessed online April 8, 2022.

Liang CZ, Li H, Tao YQ, et al. The relationship between low pH in intervertebral discs and low back pain: a systematic review. Arch Med Sci. 2012;8(6):952-956.

Mayo Clinic. Chronic Kidney Disease. Accessed online April 8, 2022.

Mollenhauer und Werner. Citrate supplementation with tendon insertion irritation. Medical Sports Network 03.12

Ohshima H, Urban JP. The effect of lactate and pH on proteoglycan and protein synthesis rates in the intervertebral disc. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1992;17(9):1079-1082.

Ugawa S, Ueda T, Ishida Y, Nishigaki M, Shibata Y, Shimada S. Amiloride-blockable acid-sensing ion channels are leading acid sensors expressed in human nociceptorsJ Clin Invest. 2002;110(8):1185-1190.

van Velden DP, Reuter H, Kidd M, Müller FO. Non-allopathic adjuvant management of osteoarthritis by alkalinisation of the diet. Afr J Prim Health Care Fam Med. 2015;7(1):780. Published 2015 Apr 21.

Vormann J, Worlitschek M, Goedecke T, Silver B. Supplementation with alkaline minerals reduces symptoms in patients with chronic low back pain. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2001;15(2-3):179-183.

Wuertz K, Godburn K, Iatridis JC. MSC response to pH levels found in degenerating intervertebral discs. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2009;379(4):824-829.

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