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Cream of the crop A comfrey-root extract ointment provided “remarkably potent” relief from acute back pain in a recent trial. Participants used the ointment three times a day for four days and reported a better-than-95-percent improvement. Comfrey creams and ointments are available in nonprescription preparations. Extracts of capsaicin—the active substance that gives chili peppers their heat— are also beneficial. Capsaicin is found in creams and gels, and a patch containing an 8-percent solution appears to be particularly helpful for lower back pain. Herbal creams and gels containing devil’s claw, white willow bark, calendula, or lavender essential oil can be effective too. Homeopathic arnica is great for aches and pains in muscles and joints, including the lower back. It’s also available in gel form.
Prevention Many supplements can give you a leg up on back pain before it starts. Glucosamine sulfate supports joint health (yes, there are joints in the lower back), as does S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). And don’t overlook the value of a multivitamin/mineral. Low blood levels of vitamin C have been linked to chronic back pain, while the B vitamins show strong promise in relieving discomfort. Vitamin A helps repair tissue, while D and K help maintain healthy bones. Omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in preventing back pain by relieving inflammation.
Exercise care Acute lower back pain brought on by exercise or other physical exertion usually heals quickly. Seek treatment from a healthcare professional if the pain persists for more than a few days or becomes worse. —Cameron Hendrix “Efficacy and Safety of Comfrey Root Extract Ointment in the Treatment of Acute Upper or Lower Back Pain . . .” by B.M. Giannetti et al., Br J Sports Med, 7/10 ● “Food for Thought: Diet and Nutrition for a Healthy Back” by Kelly Andrews, DC, www.Spine-Health.com ● “Herbal Medicine for Low Back Pain . . .” by J.J. Gagnier et al., Spine, 1/16 ● “Low Back Pain Fact Sheet,” www.ninds.gov/disorders/backpain ● “Serum Vitamin C and Spinal Pain . . .” by C.E. Dionne et al., Pain, 7/18/16 ● “Vitamin B for Back Pain” by Anne Becker, www.PsychologyToday.com, 6/9/16
did you know? Two 90-minute sessions of yoga a week for 24 weeks reduced back pain by more than half in a recent study. Participants also had less disability and depression compared to others with back pain who underwent standard care. Increased muscle strength and ﬂexibility, relaxation, and stress reduction are among the beneﬁts of yoga. “The Physical Benefits of Yoga,” Harvard Medical School HEALTHbeat, 7/21/16
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