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How To Alleviate Lower Back Pain Without Damaging Your Stomach Lining!

Posted Aug 24 2008 9:25pm

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Do you ever experience stabbing pains at the base of your spine when you stand up suddenly? Maybe you suffer from ongoing lower back pain so much so, you can’t stand or sit comfortably for extended periods of time? Even if you’ve been lucky enough to escape this painful problem until now,you should still read on as it’s been estimated that up to 80 per cent of us will be affected by the condition at some stage in our lives.

Your lower back bears most of the weight and stress of your body. Getting to the root of lower back pain can be difficult, but common causes are bad posture, poor muscle tone, being overweight and disc problems. Thankfully, it clears up quickly in most cases, but for some people it can develop into a chronic condition. If you have back pain that doesn’t get better within a few weeks,you should see your doctor to rule out the possibility of serious problems like nerve damage, arthritis, osteoporosis, kidney disease or a spinal tumor.

Medication can become the problem, not the solution Painkillers are usually the first resort when back pain strikes, but they can cause a range of adverse (even lethal!) effects. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen are usually tried first, but if these fail to bring relief, steroid creams or injections may be prescribed. NSAIDs may numb the pain, but they are associated with severe irritation of the digestive system. As a result, an anti-ulcer drug may be given alongside them, which increases the risk of even more side-effects like dizziness and headaches. The cycle of fighting one drug’s side-effects with another drug (which has its own set of side-effects) is ridiculous but is unfortunately common practice in mainstream medical circles.

More worryingly, NSAIDs actually sabotage your body’s own healing efforts by accelerating arthritic degeneration. The news doesn’t get any better steroid drugs are even worse, with a list of documented side-effects that just goes on and on, including mood changes, acne, peptic ulcers, immune suppression, raised blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis (British Medical Association New Guide to Medicines and Drugs, 2001). Fortunately, there are several nutritional and herbal supplements that can help relieve lower back pain. The amino acid D L-phenylalanine (DLPA) reduces pain by blocking an enzyme called carboxypeptide A that destroys endorphins the body’s natural painkillers (Prog Clin Biol Res 1985; 192: 363-70). In one clinical trial, an impressive 73 per cent of people with lower back pain who took DLPA reported good-to-excellent relief (Northwest Acad Prev Med 1983; 3(5): 8).

The recommended dose of DLPA is 1,500 to 2,000mg a day. White willow Nature’s very own aspirin The bark of the white willow (Salix alba) contains a compound called salicylic acid. Aspirin (acetyl salicylic acid) is a synthetic form of this chemical. Taking a supplement of white willow bark can provide all the pain-relieving benefit of aspirin without the drug ’ s notorious side-effect of stomach irritation. In a placebo-controlled trial, 39 per cent of patients with lower back pain who took white willow bark extract reported a significant reduction in pain, in most cases within the first week of treatment.

This compared with 6 per cent who reported an improvement while taking placebo (Am J Med 2000; 109: 9-14). Take one to three 400mg tablets of white willow bark a day. B-vitamin supplements can prevent relapses of common kinds of back pain. In two independent trials, a combination of vitamins B1, B6 and B12, three times a day, not only reduced the number of lower back pain episodes but also reduced the level of medication needed during each episode (Ann NY Acad Sci 1990; 585: 54-62; Klin Wochenschr 1990; 68: 107-15).

The dosages used in these trials were higher than those normally recommended. Take a balanced B-complex supplement that gives you at least 50mg each of vitamins B1 and B6 per day. Higher doses should only be taken under medical supervision. Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is a herb that is better known for treating arthritis. However, two clinical trials in Germany have shown that it is also effective in relieving lower back pain.

Pain intensity, muscle spasms and muscle tenderness were all substantially reduced in patients taking devil’s claw extract, compared with those in the placebo group (Schmerz 2001; 15: 10-18; Eur J Anaesthesiol 1999; 16(2): 118-29). There was no evidence of side-effects from taking devil’s claw in either of these trials, but this herb is not recommended if you have a peptic ulcer since it can increase acid production. Take 600 to 900mg of devil’s claw extract (standardised to 5 per cent harpagosides) daily.

Chronic back pain shouldn’t be ignored. Often, the root cause can be treated by means of lifestyle changes such as adjusting your chair at work and strengthening your back muscles under the supervision of a qualified physiotherapist. However, if you need to address your lower back pain in the interim, steer clear of NSAIDs. Instead try using white willow or devil’s claw, and make sure you’re supplementing with an appropriate dose of vitamin B-complex.

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