- Top 5 Vitamins and Minerals to Ease Back Pain
- Dietary Supplements for Back Pain
- Supplement the Smart Way for Spinal Bone Health
- Can Supplements Cure A Herniated / Bulging Disc?
- A Word of Warning
- Myth #1 – Supplements are generally safe, so there is no need to check with my doctor before taking them.
- Myth #2 – The bottle says it’s “natural,” so it won’t do any harm.
- Myth #3 – Supplements are regulated by the FDA, so they must be effective.
- Myth #4 – Supplements can take the place of healthy eating.
- Myth #5 – I should be taking glucosamine and chondroitin supplements to help with osteoarthritis in the back.
- Ease Chronic Pain with Fish Oils
- Signs and Symptoms
- Low back pain
- What Causes It?
- What to Expect at Your Provider’s Office
- Complementary and Alternative Therapies
- Nutrition and Dietary Supplements
- Special Considerations
- Supporting Research
Top 5 Vitamins and Minerals to Ease Back Pain
Lower back pain is inevitable if most of your days demand pressure and stress on your back. Sitting for long periods, slouching, improper sleeping positions and not enough physical activity are the most common causes of this condition.
1. Vitamin D
The body needs vitamin D to create new bone cells. It is also an essential component in calcium absorption for healthier bones. A lack of vitamin D in the body can lead to the softening of the bone surfaces, which usually results in lower back pain.
Vitamin D has been proven to be a very good agent in maintaining back health. People with chronic lower back pain experienced significant improvement in their condition when they started taking vitamin D regularly. Studies show that regular vitamin D intake may lessen the spasms in your lower back.
Vitamin D rarely reacts with other drugs or medication and therefore is safe for you to administer and take. Furthermore, vitamin D is inexpensive and affordable for daily use.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a vitamin that helps lower back pain. Like vitamin D, it increases calcium absorption in the body which promotes strong and healthy bones. Vitamin C is known to help in the process of healing fractured and broken bones, wounds and burns. Regular intake of vitamin C also offers many health benefits such as strengthening of your immune system and increased protection from common colds and flu.
3. B Vitamins
Vitamin B complex is a group of vitamins that is essential for your overall health. In this group, three vitamins help lower back pain. They are vitamins B1, B6 and B12. Research shows that these vitamins may considerably reduce your lower back pain. They aid in the healing of inflamed nerves, which is one of the causes of lower back pain. Furthermore, vitamins B1, B6, and B12 help strengthen and nourish your nerves to help them heal and prevent further damage.
4. Vitamin E
When your lower back is inflamed, free radicals are released. These free radicals are toxic and may cause more damage, because they can increase the inflammation of your back. Vitamin E can help lower back pain as it is a powerful antioxidant that fights off free radicals. By taking vitamin E regularly, you increase the antioxidant reaction in your body that may help relieve lower back pain.
5. Calcium and Magnesium
These two minerals are crucial for the prevention of calcium deficiency, which can lead to osteoporosis. Calcium is a building block for strong bones and is crucial for their health. Aside from strengthening your bones, magnesium maintains your muscles and nerve functions. Sufficient intake of magnesium may help muscle spasms and significantly reduce back pain.
Taking vitamins and minerals can help with your lower back pain, but they also provide many benefits for your overall health. With proper diet and regular exercise, you may be able to prevent the recurrence of lower back pain.
Source: www.3fatchicks.com; July 22, 2010.
Dietary Supplements for Back Pain
For some people whose chronic back or neck pain is not adequately controlled with pain relievers, dietary supplements may seem like an attractive option. Many dietary supplements and herbs are advertised as treatments for pain and inflammation. While some people may find herbs and supplements helpful in relieving or reducing their pain, it is important to know these are not magic pills that can cure pain or the depression that can accompany chronic or painful spine-related conditions.
Having a discussion with your health care provider is vital before you consume any type of supplement.Photo Source: 123RF.com.
Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains helps keep your body in good shape. Foods high in antioxidants, such as green, leafy vegetables and berries, may be helpful in fighting inflammation.
Supplements and herbs that some people have found helpful to reduce inflammation and pain, include those listed below. However, it’s prudent to point out that several of these supplements can increase the risk for bleeding. Therefore, it bears repeating that having a discussion with your health care provider is vital before you consume any type of supplement.
Omega-3 fatty acids
- Such as flaxseed and fish oils.
- Omega-3 fatty acids can increase the risk of bleeding and potentially interfere with blood-thinning medications such as warfarin (Coumadin) and aspirin.
- While some studies show these supplements may help relieve arthritis pain, they have not been studied specifically as a treatment for low back pain.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin may interact with blood-thinning medications such as warfarin (Coumadin) and aspirin.
- Some research suggests MSM helps relieve arthritis pain.
- This enzyme may reduce inflammation.
- It may increase the risk of bleeding, so people who take blood thinners should not take this supplement without first consulting their health care provider.
- Bromelain may interact with some antibiotic medications.
- Do not take bromelain if you have a peptic ulcer.
Herbs may come in the form of pills, capsules or tablets; teas; or tinctures/liquid extracts.
- Is used for to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Turmeric can increase the risk of bleeding, especially for people who take blood-thinning medication.
- Is used to reduce pain.
- Devil’s claw may increase the risk of bleeding and interact with diabetes medications.
- Devil’s claw can affect the heart and may cause problems for people with gallstones.
- Is used to relieve pain.
- Do not take white willow if you are also taking aspirin or blood-thinning medications.
- Do not take willow bard if you are allergic to aspirin or salicylates.
- Do not give willow bark to children under the age of 18.
- The cream is applied to the skin to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Capsaicin is the main component in hot chili peppers.
Things to Remember About Supplements
- Dietary supplements and herbs do not need approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before they are marketed or sold.
- Herbs can have drug-like effects on the body.
- A product sold as a dietary supplement and promoted on its label as a treatment, prevention or cure for a specific disease or condition is considered an unapproved—and thus illegal—drug.
Certain supplements and herbs may interact with prescription and/or over-the-counter medicines you already take. Such drug interactions may cause adverse and even potentially life-threatening effects.
It is especially important for you to check with your health care provider before taking supplements if you are pregnant, nursing a baby or have a chronic medical condition (such as diabetes, hypertension or heart disease).
Herbal Supplements “Natural” Doesn’t Always Mean Safe. North American Spine Society. Accessed November 16, 2015.
Supplement the Smart Way for Spinal Bone Health
The bones in your spine—and throughout your body—need nutrients to rebuild and stay strong throughout your whole life. Eating a balanced diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium is the best way to feed your bones and ward off serious spinal problems, such as spinal fractures and osteoporosis. But, inadequate diets or medical issues can create nutritional gaps—that’s where a vitamin or mineral supplement comes in.
Your dietary needs change throughout life, so adding a supplement as you age may help you stay healthy. Photo Source: 123RF.com.Supplements aren’t magic bullets, but they can be a health safety net when used properly. This article helps you understand the reality of nutritional supplements—specifically bone health boosters like calcium and vitamin D—and offers tips to help you get the most from them.
Supplements Simply Supplement
Supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D for bone health, fill nutritional gaps. They’re not usually necessary if you get the key nutrients you need from a healthy and balanced diet.
Some people use supplements as a replacement for a food, which they are not intended to be. Food supplies multiple nutrients, along with substances other than nutrients that are beneficial for your health and not necessarily found in supplements.
Should You Take a Supplement to Strengthen Your Spine?
Your dietary needs change throughout life, so adding a supplement as you age or during pregnancy may help you stay healthy. Like other nutrients, calcium and vitamin D requirements vary based on age and sex (you can figure out how much you should get each day in Calcium, Vitamin D, and Magnesium: The Big 3 for Bone Health).
When it comes to protecting your spinal bone health, certain people may need a supplement to ensure their bodies are processing calcium and vitamin D properly. This includes:
- People who have had an intestinal bypass procedure
- People who have food absorption difficulties, such as those with Celiac or Crohn’s disease
- People who eat few or no dairy products, such as vegans or those with lactose intolerance
Wondering whether a calcium supplement is right for you? Read Calcium Is Essential for Strong Back and Neck Bones.It contains some simple ways to determine if you’d benefit from a calcium supplement, but the only way to definitively know is by having a conversation with your doctor.
Your Doctor and Pharmacist Help Ensure Supplement Safety
Because you can purchase a nutritional supplement over the counter, many people incorrectly assume that they are completely safe. However, dietary supplements can interfere with the absorption and action of other supplements and medications, and they can be toxic when taken in high doses.
- Calcium and iron supplements can prevent each other from being fully absorbed when they are taken together. This is true of most minerals, including magnesium, because they compete with each other for absorption into the body so they are best taken separately.
- At the same time, supplements taken together can cause too much of one or the other to be absorbed. This is the case with high-dose vitamin D supplements, which can cause too much calcium to be absorbed.
- Too much calcium may increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Also, taking more than 1,000-1,200 mg of calcium per day (or more than 600 mg at one time) is pointless, because your body cannot process that much calcium at once.
The question you need answered is this: Are your supplements helping or hurting you? The best way to know for sure is to talk to your doctor whenever you change your medication or supplement regimen—even if you’re simply adding a new vitamin to the mix.
Another great but often underused resource for supplement advice is your pharmacist. He or she will know whether your mix of supplements and medicines poses any risk of negative interaction. And, if you’re shopping for a supplement, your pharmacist can help recommend a trustworthy product.
Calcium Supplement Success Tips
If you and your doctor think a calcium supplement may help support your spinal bone health, use these tips to get the most benefit:
- Purchase supplements with the USP symbol, which indicates that the supplement has been independently evaluated and certified.
- Take your supplement every day, ideally with a meal.
- Take calcium supplements in doses no higher than 500-600 mg, no more than 2-3 times a day, for a maximum of 1,000-1,200 mg.
- Drink plenty of water with your supplement, as some types can cause constipation.
- Don’t take your calcium supplement with a high-fiber meal or laxative, as fiber can interfere with calcium absorption.
Supplements: Not Magic Pills, but They May Support Spine Health
The key takeaway about supplements is that they’re just that—supplements. They can help fill nutritional gaps, but they should not be used as a replacement for a healthy diet. Eating foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium is the best way to build strong spinal bones and prevent debilitating health problems, such as spinal fracture and osteoporosis. If you have concerns about whether your diet is meeting your nutritional needs, talk to your doctor.
BONESENSE on Calcium and Vitamin D: Dynamic Duo for Bone Health PDF. American Bone Health. Published 2013. Accessed July 10, 2017.
Can Supplements Cure A Herniated / Bulging Disc?
Herniated or bulging disks: these names alone are enough to make the toughest man cringe, and for good reason. Intervertebral (spinal) discs cushion and connect the vertebrae of the spine.1 These discs, which are composed of a rigid outer layer (known as the annulus fibrosis) and a jelly-like filling (knowns as the nucleus polposus), can become cracked (herniated) or flatten and shift (bulge).1 These changes (commonly associated with aging), often result in excruciating nerve pain, as the compromised discs impinge on nearby spinal nerves.1 The most common treatments for herniated/bulging discs include bed rest, physical therapy, steroid injections, anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving medications, and (if all else fails) surgical intervention. However, nutritional supplementation may also help counteract the degeneration of spinal discs. Let’s take a look at the most common supplements used to combat herniated/bulging discs:
1. Glucosamine Sulfate
Often associated with the treatment of knee and hip pain, glucosamine exists naturally within human joint fluids.2 It also occurs in the shells of crab, shrimp, and lobster.2 This chemical assists in the lubrication of joints, as well as the maintenance and repair of cartilage.2 A dosage of 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine, daily, is recommended for the relief of herniated/bulging disc pain.2
2. Chondroitin Sulfate
Chondroitin sulfate may be considered glucosamine’s “wing man”, and occurs naturally within the cartilage of humans and animals. It is believed that 800 to 1,200 milligrams of daily chondroitin supplementation (in conjunction with glucosamine) may aid in the repair of damaged cartilage.3 Glucosamine/chondroitin supplements have been widely-studied for their use in the treatment of joint-related conditions, including bulging/herniated discs. A study published in BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine noted that early-stage, long-term glucosamine, chondroitin, and manganese supplementation resulted in improved symptoms of disc degeneration.4 Though research results remain mixed, many individuals swear by the power of glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation.
3. Manganese Ascorbate
Manganese is an essential mineral responsible for many tasks within the body, including proper nerve function and the creation of bones and connective tissues.6 As previously mentioned, research suggests that 132 to 198 milligrams of daily manganese supplementation may ease the symptoms associated with herniated/bulging dics.5 However, great care should be taken when consuming manganese, as this trace mineral can be toxic.
4. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
This organic sulfur occurs naturally in foods (including meat, fruits, vegetables, and grains) and the human body.6 While extensive research is needed, many believe that MSM supplementation (1,000 to 3,000 milligrams daily) reduces the inflammation and pain associated with degenerative joint conditions.6 MSM is often used in conjunction with chondroitin/glucosamine supplements. However, caution should be exercised when taking MSM, as this compound may cause intestinal upset or interfere with blood-thinning medications.6
5. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful nutrient that aids in the creation of collagen, a key ingredient in connective tissues, and the reparation of damaged tissues.7 Experts believe that upwards of 3,000 milligrams of daily vitamin C intake may have positive benefits for those with bulging/herniated discs.7 While vitamin C is available in supplements, it is preferable to consume this vitamin in the form of bell peppers, broccoli, citrus fruits, cauliflower, spinach, and other vitamin-C rich foods.
Don’t Forget Water
When discussing herniated/bulging discs, the importance of water intake cannot be overemphasized. The inside of spinal discs are composed of 88% water, making adequate water intake crucial to the prevention of dried, flattened, or cracked discs. Additionally, water is needed to deliver nutrients and expel wastes from cartilage and spinal discs, while it also aids in the proper growth, repair, and maintenance of these vital tissues.8 Women should consume at least 2.1 litres of water per day, while men require at least 2.6 litres.9
A Word of Warning
While further research is needed, many individuals find relief through nutritional supplementation. However, the guidance of an Accredited Practising Dietician should be sought before beginning any supplementation regimen. Furthermore, it is vital that a patient inform their doctor about any supplements they are taking, as many products may interfere with prescription medications. By using caution and seeking the advice of a medical professional, supplementation may prove helpful for the pain and degeneration associated with bulging/herniated discs. References:
Supplements are growing in popularity as a way to promote spine health and solve a vast array of medical ailments. The problem is, there is limited evidence to prove the effectiveness of these supplements. How many of these claims are actually true?
Before beginning any treatment plan, including the use of supplements, you should be informed about the facts. Today, we’ll set the record straight on some of the most common misconceptions about supplements for spine health.
Myth #1 – Supplements are generally safe, so there is no need to check with my doctor before taking them.
Just as certain prescription drugs can produce adverse reactions when mixed with other drugs, supplements can also react with your medications. You should always consult with your doctor before taking anything new, including supplements. Likewise, you should also inform your doctor of any medications and supplements you are currently taking.
Myth #2 – The bottle says it’s “natural,” so it won’t do any harm.
When a supplement derived is from a natural source, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe for you to take. Many prescription drugs come from natural sources as well, but they can still interact with your current medications and treatment plan. This is why it is important to stress that you consult with a doctor and do some research to inform yourself about any supplement, “natural” or not, before taking it.
Myth #3 – Supplements are regulated by the FDA, so they must be effective.
The FDA does regulate some, but not all, supplements. However, they are not regulated in the same way that drugs are. Supplements fall under the “foods” category rather than the “drug” category, so the regulatory requirements are different. Specifically, manufacturers are not required to prove the safety and effectiveness of supplements before making them available to consumers, unlike drug manufacturers, who must prove the safety and effectiveness of a drug before it can be put on the market. While supplement manufacturers and distributors are required to investigate any claims of adverse effects and report their findings to the FDA, it is ultimately the FDA’s responsibility to prove that a supplement is unsafe before it can take any action. The only exceptions are if the supplement contains a “new dietary ingredient” not previously sold in the U.S., or if the supplement contains an illegal substance that is known to be unsafe or ineffective. (For more information about FDA regulations, visit their website.)
Myth #4 – Supplements can take the place of healthy eating.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy–you still need to eat your vegetables. It’s better to get the nutrients you need through the foods you eat rather than a pill. They are called supplements for a reason–they are meant to enhance a healthy lifestyle, not replace it.
Myth #5 – I should be taking glucosamine and chondroitin supplements to help with osteoarthritis in the back.
Glucosamine and chondroitin has been shown to be effective in some studies, but peer-reviewed literature does not consistently support its use for back pain relief. Some people take these supplements alongside other nonsurgical treatments. However, if you are taking aspirin daily, you should use caution when taking glucosamine and chondroitin, as it can contribute to bleeding. You should also avoid these supplements if you are pregnant or nursing.
When researching supplements to help with back pain, always be sure that you are getting your information from legitimate sources. While the internet can provide a great deal of information, there is a lot of false information out there. When it comes to your health, you should always play it safe.
Ease Chronic Pain with Fish Oils
Can you eat your way out of chronic pain? Possibly yes.
There’s evidence that you may be able to ease certain types of chronic pain by consuming foods or supplements that are high in omega-3 essential fatty acids. Omega-3s, commonly called “fish oil” because of their primary source, have been shown to lessen the intensity of joint pain and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis and neck and back pain, as well as pain caused by inflammatory bowel disease and menstrual cramps.
Omega-3 fatty acids lower inflammation within the body, which helps reduce conditions such as heart disease. The same mechanism may be at work in lowering pain.
Indeed, some research subjects with chronic pain who took 1,200 to 2,400 milligrams of omega-3 in supplement form daily were able to reduce or eliminate their use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, in less than three months. Those medications, such as ibuprofen, can cause troublesome and sometimes dangerous side effects, especially with long-term use. Fish oil, even in supplement form, appears to be safer.
Check with your health care provider if you are taking blood thinners or high doses of aspirin before taking omega-3 supplements. (It’s wise to talk with your health care provider before starting any vitamin or supplement regimen, especially if you have a chronic condition, such as high blood pressure, or take medication regularly.)
The highest levels of omega-3s in food are found in fatty fish such as mackerel, Atlantic or sockeye salmon, lake trout, herring, sardines and canned light tuna. Two 3.5-ounce portions weekly can help lower inflammation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Following a Mediterranean-type diet—with emphasis mainly on fish, vegetables, fruits and little saturated fat—also appears to help reduce arthritic pain.
If you’re a vegan and don’t eat any animal products, you can get some omega-3 benefit from flaxseed oil and walnuts. Your body converts the type of omega-3 found in these foods to the more beneficial type found in fish oil but not at the same level.
When buying fish oil or omega-3 supplements, read the label carefully. Note how much of the supplement is actually omega-3 fatty acids—it may differ greatly from the size of the capsule. Choose one with high omega-3 content and low (or no) saturated fats or omega-6 fatty acids (which contribute to inflammation). Look for supplements that are molecularly distilled, which removes mercury or PCB toxins. Also, fish oil taken from small, cold-water fish such as anchovies and sardines has the most omega-3 with fewer contaminants than larger fish. Many labels will list the fish source for the supplement.
Signs and Symptoms
Low back pain
Also listed as:
|Signs and Symptoms||What Causes It?||What to Expect at Your Provider’s Office||Treatment||Special Considerations||Supporting Research|
Low back pain is a common problem. About 60 to 80% of the adult U.S. population has low back pain, and it is the second most common reason people go to the doctor. Low back problems affect the spine’s flexibility, stability, and strength, which can cause pain, discomfort, and stiffness.
Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old. Each year 13 million people go to the doctor for chronic back pain. The condition leaves about 2.4 million Americans chronically disabled and another 2.4 million temporarily disabled.
Most back pain can be prevented by keeping your back muscles strong and making sure you practice good mechanics (like lifting heavy objects in a way that will not strain your back).
Symptoms of low back pain may include:
- Tenderness, pain, and stiffness in the lower back
- Pain that spreads into the buttocks or legs
- Having a hard time standing up or standing in one position for a long time
- Discomfort while sitting
- Weakness and tired legs while walking
What Causes It?
In most people, the cause of low back pain is unknown. It may be caused by an injury, strain from lifting, twisting, or bending. In rare cases, low back pain can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as an infection, a rheumatic or arthritic condition, or a tumor.
A ruptured or bulging disk, the strong, spongy, gel-filled cushions that lie between each vertebra, and compression fractures of the vertebra, caused by osteoporosis, can also cause low back pain. Arthritis can cause the space around the spinal cord to narrow (called spinal stenosis), leading to pain.
Risk factors for back pain include age, family history of low back pain, smoking, being overweight, being female, being anxious or depressed, and either doing physical work or sedentary work.
What to Expect at Your Provider’s Office
Often your doctor will be able to diagnose your back pain with a physical exam. Your doctor will ask you to stand, sit, and move. Your doctor will check your reflexes and perhaps your response to touch, slight heat, or a pinprick. Depending on what your doctor finds, other tests may include an x-ray, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, a bone scan, and computed tomography (CT) scan.
In many cases, back pain improves with self care. You should see your doctor if your pain does not get better within 72 hours. You can lower your risk of back problems by exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and practicing good posture. Learning to bend and lift properly, sleeping on a firm mattress, sitting in supportive chairs, and wearing low-heeled shoes are other important factors. Although you may need to rest your back for a little while, staying in bed for several days tends to make back pain worse.
For long-term back pain, your doctor may recommend stronger medications, physical therapy, or surgery. Most people will not need surgery for back pain.
Medications used to treat low back pain include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve), muscle relaxants, such as carisoprodol (Soma), and steroids, such as prednisone. Your doctor may prescribe opiates, such as hydrocodone (Lortab, Vicodin) for short-term use. An injection of a corticosteroid (cortisone shot) may also help decrease inflammation.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Alternative therapies can help ease muscle tension, correct posture, relieve pain, and prevent long-term back problems by improving muscle strength and joint stability. Many people find pain relief by using hot and cold packs on the sore area. Special exercises, such as ones designed for your specific problem by a physical therapist, can help strengthen your core abdominal muscles and your back muscles, reducing pain and making your back stronger.
Nutrition and Dietary Supplements
There is no special diet for back pain, but you can help keep your body in good shape by eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose foods that are low in saturated fat and sugar. Drink plenty of water.
Foods that are high in antioxidants (such as green leafy vegetables and berries) may help fight inflammation.
Avoid caffeine and other stimulants, alcohol, and tobacco.
Exercise moderately at least 30 minutes daily, 5 days a week. Get your health care provider’s approval before starting an exercise regimen.
These supplements may help fight inflammation and pain:
- Omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed and fish oils, to help reduce inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids can increase the risk of bleeding and potentially interfere with blood-thinning medications such as warfarin (Coumadin) and aspirin.
- Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), to help prevent joint and connective tissue breakdown. In some studies, MSM has been shown to help relieve arthritis pain.
- Bromelain. This enzyme that comes from pineapples reduces inflammation. Bromelain may increase the risk of bleeding, so people who take anticoagulants (blood thinners) should not take bromelain without first talking to their health care provider. People with peptic ulcers should avoid bromelain. Turmeric is sometimes combined with bromelain, because it makes the effects of bromelain stronger. Bromelain may interact with some antibiotic medications.
Herbs are generally available as standardized, dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures/liquid extracts (alcohol extraction, unless otherwise noted). Mix liquid extracts with favorite beverage.
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa) standardized extract, for pain and inflammation. Turmeric is sometimes combined with bromelain because it makes the effects of bromelain stronger. Turmeric can increase the risk of bleeding, especially for people who take blood-thinning medication. Ask your doctor before taking turmeric.
- Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) standardized extract. Devil’s claw has been used traditionally to relieve pain. One study found that more than 50% of people with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, or low back pain, who took devil’s claw reported less pain and better mobility after 8 weeks. Devil’s claw may increase the risk of bleeding and interact with diabetes medications, as well as potentially several types of medications. Tell your health care provider before taking it if you also take blood-thinning medication, or if you have diabetes. Devil’s claw can affect the heart, and may not be right for people with certain heart problems. It can also potentially be problematic for people with gallstones.
- Willow bark (Salix alba) standardized extract, to relieve pain. Willow acts similar to aspirin. DO NOT take white willow if you are also taking aspirin or blood-thinning medications. Check with your provider if you are allergic to aspirin or salicylates before taking white willow. DO NOT give Willow to children under the age of 18.
- Capsaicin (Capsicum frutescens) cream, applied to the skin (topically). Capsaicin is the main component in hot chili peppers (also known as cayenne). Applied to the skin, it may temporarily reduce amounts of “Substance P,” a chemical that contributes to inflammation and pain. One found a topical capsaicin cream relieved pain better than placebo in 320 people with low back pain. Pain reduction generally starts 3 to 7 days after applying the capsaicin cream to the skin. DO NOT use internally.
Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following treatments to relieve low back pain based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’s constitutional type, includes your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual.
Some of the most common remedies for this condition are listed below:
- Aesculus. For dull pain with muscle weakness.
- Arnica Montana. Especially with pain as a result of trauma.
- Colocynthis. For weakness and cramping in the small of the back.
- Gnaphalium. For sciatica that alternates with numbness.
- Lycopodium. For burning pain, especially with gas or bloating.
- Rhus toxicodendron. For stiffness and pain in the small of the back.
Contrast hydrotherapy, alternating hot and cold, may help. Alternate 3 minutes hot with 1 minute cold. Repeat 3 times to complete 1 set. Do 2 to 3 sets per day.
Castor Oil Packs
Apply oil directly to skin, cover with a clean soft cloth and plastic wrap. Place a heat source over the pack and let sit for 30 to 60 minutes. Repeat this procedure for 3 consecutive days.
Research suggests that acupuncture may be effective for low back pain. In addition, acupuncturists frequently report success in treating low back pain, and the National Institutes of Health recommend acupuncture as a reasonable treatment option. An acupuncturist may use a comprehensive approach, including specialized massage, warming herbal oils, and patient education.
Treating low back pain with acupuncture can be complex because many meridians (including the kidney, bladder, liver, and gallbladder) affect this area of the body. Treatment of the painful areas and related sore points is often done as well, with needles or moxibustion (burning the herb mugwort over specific acupuncture points).
A study of 1,162 people with a history of chronic low back pain found that at 6 months of acupuncture treatments relieved low back pain, almost twice as much as from conventional therapy. People had 10, 30-minute acupuncture sessions, generally 2 sessions per week.
According to a comprehensive review conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, spinal manipulation and NSAIDs are the 2 most effective treatments for acute low back pain. Of these, only spinal manipulation relieves pain and restores function. Spinal manipulation also appears to be effective for chronic low back pain, but the evidence is less conclusive. Some studies even suggest that spinal manipulation is no more effective than other recommended therapies.
Massage may help treat and prevent short and long-term back problems.
Yoga and Tai Chi
Evidence suggests that the mind-body practices of yoga and tai chi offer significant relief of the symptoms of low back pain. In one study of 300 people with low back pain, those who participated in a 12-week yoga program experienced greater improvements in back function than did usual care. Gigong appears to be similarly effective.
Chronic low back problems can interfere with everyday activities, sleep, and concentration. Severe symptoms may affect mood and sexuality. Chronic pain is also associated with depression, which can in turn make chronic pain worse.
Aota Y, Iizuka H, Ishige Y, et al. Effectiveness of a lumbar support continuous passive motion device in the prevention of low back pain during prolonged sitting. Spine. 2007;32(23):E674-7.
Blodt S, Pach D, Kaster T, et al. Qigong versus exercise therapy for chrnoic low back pain in adults-a randomized controlled non-inferiority trial. Eur J Pain. 2015;1991:123-31.
Cecchi F, Molino-Lova R, Chiti M, Pasquini G, Paperini A, Conti AA, Macchi C. Spinal manipulation compared with back school and with individually delivered physiotherapy for the treatment of chronic low back pain: a randomized trial with one-year follow-up. Clin Rehabil. 2010;24(1):26-36.
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Cherkin DC, Eisenberg D, Sherman KJ, et al. Randomized trial comparing traditional Chinese medical acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and self-care education for chronic low back pain. Arch Intern Med. 2001;161:1081-8.
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Review Date: 2/4/2016
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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