It’s easy enough to find supplements. Grocery stores, health food stores, and pharmacies all have a lot of supplements available. If you expand your search to the internet, there are even more supplements. With this many supplements to choose from, narrowing down which supplements might help your back pain can be tricky.
Check with your physician before starting any new supplements
Most supplements are safe to take, but it is possible for some to contain allergens, cause side effects, or interact with other drugs. Tell your physician about all of the medications, vitamins, and supplements you already take, as well as any allergies you might have. Explain what supplement you’re considering starting and ask if it’s okay for you to take. If you’re questioning the suggested dosage of a supplement, discuss this with your physician, too; some supplements can become toxic in very high doses.
Additionally, don’t expect a supplement to replace a prescribed medication. Supplements may help with your back pain, but the effects are likely to be subtle. Also make sure you don’t start several new supplements at the same time. On the chance that you might experience negative side effects, starting several new supplements makes it difficult to know which one is to blame. Similarly, if you experience a positive effect after starting several supplements, it’s hard to know which supplement worked.
Make sure that any supplements you take are high-quality
Getting high-quality supplements reduces the chance of contamination or negative side effects. To get a high-quality supplement for your back pain, look for a trusted company. Larger manufacturers have to uphold a good reputation, so they’re likely to have stricter manufacturing processes for their supplements.
You can also look for “USP” on supplements’ labels. USP stands for United States Pharmacopoeia. When a supplement has USP on its label, it means the product meets the manufacturing standards set by the USP.
Some of the supplements that may help with back pain include the following.
Glucosamine occurs naturally in the body. It’s found in the fluid around joints, where it aids in bone and cartilage production. Glucosamine supplements can contain naturally-occurring glucosamine, which is often harvested from shellfish shells, or lab-created glucosamine. The most common type of glucosamine supplement, glucosamine sulfide, is rated by the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database as “likely” to help with osteoarthritis pain. If your back pain is related to osteoarthritis, glucosamine sulfide supplements might help.
2. Willow bark extract
Willow bark has been used for pain relief and inflammation reduction for thousands of years. Scientists aren’t yet sure what chemical compound in willow bark can accomplish this, but studies have shown that willow bark does, indeed, have a marked effect. In fact, one study found that willow bark may be an effective treatment for low back pain.
3. SAMe, or S-adenosylmethionine
SAMe occurs naturally in the body, but it isn’t present in any foods. Thought to support the immune system, SAMe may be able to help with back pain from osteoarthritis, as well as with mood disorders that can exacerbate back pain. A study in 2002 even concluded that SAMe might be as effective at treating osteoarthritis pain as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
4. Devil’s Claw
The Devil’s Claw fruit is native to southern Africa, but it’s been used as a means of pain relief in Europe for quite some time. The fruit can be eaten dried or fresh. It can also be utilized as an ointment, a liquid extract, a tea, or in capsule form. Current research suggests that the chemicals harpagoside and harpagide, both found in Devil’s Claw, might be responsible for the plant’s beneficial effects on those with conditions like arthritis.
Ginseng is often used to enhance strength, shorten recovery time, protect against stress, and promote relaxation. These effects can indirectly help reduce back pain, since a stronger, less-stressed person is going to respond better to pain management techniques in general. Additionally, ginseng has been shown to have anti-inflammatory abilities, so it could reduce back pain by reducing painful inflammation.
6. Fish oil
Fish oil has been a popular supplement for quite some time, and scientists are beginning to figure out why. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can prevent or slow the progression of osteoarthritis, as well as prevent or treat painful nerve damage. Fish oil also has some anti-inflammatory properties. On top of all the ways fish oil could potentially help reduce your back pain, it also supports a healthy heart.
7. Boswellia serrata
This herb, also known as “Indian Frankincense,” can reduce inflammation, making it ideal to help treat osteoarthritis. In fact, one study found that after being given an enriched supplement of boswellia serrata, patients’ osteoarthritis symptoms improved in as little as a week. However, keep in mind that it’s always important to ask your physician before starting any new supplement, especially this one. Boswellia serrata is an abortifacient, making it unsafe for pregnant women.
Deficiencies in B12 have been linked to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures. A study conducted in 2014 found that this is because B12 plays an important part in bone density formation. B12 is part of a pathway in the body that encourages bone production, so not getting enough B12 may lead to weakened bones. B12 is available in oral supplement form, or it can be given as an injection by your physician. Injected B12 has been shown to reduce pain and disability associated with low back pain.
Although supplements do not replace prescription medications, they might be able to help you significantly reduce your back pain.
Some people may scoff at the ability of supplements to help with back pain or other health issues, but scientists are always finding proof that some of the “old wives’ tale” treatments really can make a difference. If your current back pain treatment still leaves you hurting, ask your physician about supplements that might bring you a little relief.
Just be sure that you discuss all medications and supplements with your physician before you start any new supplements, since many supplements can have unintended side effects and drug interactions.
Do you take any supplements to help with your back pain?
Image by Colin Dunn via Flickr