A variety of drugs, therapies, and home remedies are available for everyone looking to manage back pain. However, some may want to use herbs or other natural supplements instead. Do herbs and supplements really help relieve back pain? Let’s look at some of the top commonly used supplements, and what research studies say about their effectiveness.
The key active ingredient of turmeric- curcumin- is one of the first choices to consider. Used for thousands of years in folk medicine, turmeric is also a popular supplement in our modern world. Thousands of research studies evaluated the benefits of this spice. Curcumin shows the ability to modulate multiple pathways involved in pain and inflammation, including the activation of the body’s opioid system. Multiple studies support the benefits of curcumin to manage arthritis, nerve pain, muscle and ligament injuries- which are all common causes of back pain. Furthermore, curcumin may help fight stress and depression, both known to aggravate chronic back pain.
The typical dose of curcumin is about 1000 mg/day. Curcumin from turmeric powder is poorly absorbed and rapidly eliminated. However, adding black pepper increases its bioavailability by 2000%. There are also standardized extracts of curcumin on the market, although they are more expensive compared with regular turmeric powder. For optimal benefits, take this supplement with a fatty meal. Precautions: Turmeric has natural blood thinner qualities and lowers blood sugar levels. While it is safe to eat turmeric as a food, seek medical advice if you consider taking it as a supplement and you are on a prescription blood thinner and antidiabetic drugs.
Scientifically known as Harpagophytum procumbens, the devil’s claw is native to South Africa. In folk medicine, it is mostly used to manage arthritis, fever, pain, and indigestion. Its key active ingredients are iridoid glycosides, particularly harpagoside. This herb has been researched in many studies. Devil’s claw has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. For inflammatory disorders of the musculoskeletal system and of low back pain, this herb was found to have “very promising.” results. According to one study, daily doses of 50 or 100 mg of devil’s claw relieved back pain more than the placebo pills. In another study, using this herb (60 mg daily) helped the participant cut down on pain killer medication. In addition to helping manage low back pain, devil’s claw may help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis, gout and support healthy weight loss. Precautions: devils’ claws have mild blood thinner qualities and thus may interfere with blood pressure medications. It should be used cautiously with anti-diabetes, anti-ulcer, and other anti-inflammatory drugs.
Magnesium and other minerals
A good quality multimineral supplement may help you manage better back pain. The health of bones, ligaments, and muscles relies on essential nutrients. One study found that adding a multimineral supplement helps reduce pain in individuals with chronic low back pain. Magnesium for example helps relieve muscle aches and pains which often contribute to back pain. This mineral also has painkiller qualities and along with vitamin D and other minerals helps maintain the bone strong and healthy. Healthy levels of calcium can also prevent and manage back pain in a few ways. Low calcium leads to weak bones and an increased risk of compression fractures and abnormal curvature of the spine, which could all lead to back pain. Calcium is also needed for muscle tone and nerve health. Back pain, muscle weakness, and fractures are also associated with a deficiency in phosphorus, which can be due to diabetes, an imbalanced diet, or excess alcohol. Zinc has the ability to lower inflammation, decrease pain, and along with other nutrients can be useful to manage chronic low back pain. Other minerals found in a multimineral formula include iodine, molybdenum, copper, manganese, selenium, chromium, and potassium.
How to choose a herb or multimineral supplement
Not all herbal or multi-mineral formulas are created equally, and thus may not deliver the results seen in studies. Choose supplements for a reputable company that tests the products and includes highly bioavailable ingredients. A healthcare practitioner specializing in natural supplements can also recommend specific brands.
You may have heard doctors saying that multi-minerals and vitamins don’t offer too many benefits. This is true for many multimineral supplements available on the market, as they are poorly absorbed. On the other hand, a good formula maybe a little bit more expensive but can really help correct mineral deficiencies and improve bone, muscle, and nerve health along the way.
Choose an iron-free multi-mineral formula, unless your doctor recommended iron supplements. For optimal benefits, use a supplement that includes highly bioavailable forms such as magnesium in the citrate, chelate, or glycinate form (magnesium oxide found in inexpensive brands is poorly absorbed), zinc glycinate, or chelate, selenium in the methionate form, chromium in the picolinate or chelate form.
Finally, consider these supplements and other home remedies for mild and moderate back pain. Don’t delay medical advice and treatment if you have significant pain or other severe symptoms.