As I often report, mainstream medicine pours most of its attention and funding into research and treatment (but, really, management) of “fatal” diseases—such as cancer and heart disease.
But it woefully neglects non-fatal, chronic conditions like lower back pain…which is the No. 1 most-common cause of pain and disability in working-age Americans. In fact, lower back pain causes 2.6 million visits to hospital emergency rooms each year! And it causes millions of others to suffer in silence at home.
What’s worse is that the coronavirus pandemic prevented tens of millions of people with chronic pain from getting access to safe and effective non-drug approaches, like acupuncture, bodywork, massage, mindfulness meditation, and yoga. All in the midst of a real opioid drug epidemic!
Fortunately, you have many safe, effective, science-backed options for dealing with lower back pain (and other types of chronic pain). And I’ll tell you all about them in just a moment.
But first, let’s back up to consider why mainstream treatment methods for back pain often fail…
Drugs work no better than placebo
If you’ve ever “thrown out your back,” you know it can really bring your life to a painful, screeching halt for a few days…or even a few weeks. Of course, some people resort to using skeletal muscle relaxants (SMRs) to get back to normal.
But a new study raised questions about the effectiveness of that method…
Researchers followed close to 1,000 middle-aged men and women who visited hospital emergency rooms with lower back pain. They all completed the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) before being discharged from the hospital. And their initial score, on average, was 18 on a 24-point scale.
(The RMDQ is a 24-item, self-report questionnaire about how lower back pain affects functional activities. The higher the score, up to 24 points, the greater the disability.)
Participants were also prescribed one of seven SMRs or a placebo…in addition to an NSAID such as ibuprofen or naproxen…before being discharged.
After one week, the participants took a second RMDQ, and they all received better scores. Even those who took a placebo and an NSAID!
In fact, there was no difference at all between the placebo/NSAID group and the SMR/NSAID group. And— when compared to three of the SMR/NSAID groups, the placebo group experienced more improvement!
Basically, that finding means that none of the typically recommended muscle relaxants added any benefit to simply taking a placebo and a common, over-the-counter (OTC) NSAID.
Now, let’s just side-track for a moment to talk about the power of the placebo, when it comes to pain…
Mind-body component to pain
I’ve often discussed an important study that compared the use of acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to placebo for lower back pain. Initially, the researchers in that study found no significant difference in results between using the drug and the placebo. (Not surprising since acetaminophen doesn’t work for joint pain.)
But when they looked more closely, they noted that the men and women who took acetaminophen actually had back pain that lasted one day longer than for those who took the placebo.
The statisticians said the extra day wasn’t “significant,” statistically speaking. But ask a patient whether or not suffering with back pain for “just” another day is “significant!”
As I discuss in my books Your Emotional Type and Overcoming Acute and Chronic Pain, study after study shows the placebo effect can actually play a very powerful role in improving health, especially when it comes to relieving pain and depression. It all relates to the very powerful mind-body connection. And the mind’s ability to interpret and benefit the experiences of the body.
Safe, natural remedies work well as first-line back pain treatments
Now, in my research and experience with lower back pain, I have found there are four safe, natural, and effective treatment options…
1.) Try topicals first. I find that using a topical cream that contains capsaicin, the active ingredient found in hot chili peppers, works quite well. (Plus, by using a topical cream that you rub onto your skin, you avoid the many side effects associated with oral drugs, such as stomach irritation.)
2.) Try hands-on healing. Of course, you also have many “hands-on” approaches to combatting back pain—including acupuncture, heat, massage, and spinal manual therapy. (You can take this short quiz to learn which approach will work best for you. You can also check out my books, Your Emotional Type and Overcoming Acute and Chronic Pain: Keys to Treatment Based on Your Emotional Type.)
In fact, the current American College of Physicians (ACP) now recommends using these hand-on approaches instead of drugs as the first-line treatments for acute, subacute, and chronic lower back pain. (Back in 1999 I was asked to write an editorial for the ACP journal on the benefits of non-drug treatments for back pain—and 20 years later they caught up.)
In addition, the ACP publicly stated back in 2017 that no drug treatment has been shown to provide a moderate or large effect on pain or function in patients with acute lower back pain.
Of course, I had come to that very same conclusion years earlier, when I performed the international analysis of more than 700 studies on lower back pain. (In fact, it was the last federally funded research study that I conducted.)
3.) Try upping your vitamin D levels. As I often report, vitamin D plays a key role in protecting you against just about every chronic disease on the planet…including back pain. But millions of Americans don’t get enough of it. And now, new research is finding that back pain may actually stem from low vitamin D levels! In fact, two recent studies suggest that you can avoid—and even reverse—lower back pain by achieving and maintaining optimal vitamin D blood levels.
That’s why I always recommend you aim to achieve optimal blood levels between 50 and 60 ng/mL. So, ask your doctor to check your blood levels twice a year—once at the end of winter and again at the end of summer. Supplementing with vitamin D will help achieve and maintain optimal levels. I recommend taking 250 mcg (10,000 IU) of vitamin D daily.
4.) Try adding these supplements and fresh foods to your daily routine, too. To prevent “throwing out your back” in the first place, I recommend you add some key supplements and fresh foods to your regimen. Evidence shows the following ingredients can help prevent and reduce chronic inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Let’s start with my ABCs for joint pain:
- Ashwagandha—400 to 500 mg per day
- Boswellia—400 to 500 mg per day
- Curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric)—400 to 500 mg per day
In addition, try adding the following ingredients to your healthy diet:
- Black pepper—Add freshly ground black pepper to your daily cooking.
- Capsaicin—Add chili peppers to your daily diet as a garnish, sauce, and salsa. And remember, the hotter the better.
- Fish oil—Fatty fish like anchovies, mackerel, salmon, and sardines are excellent sources of omega-3s. But if you don’t consume fish on a daily basis, I recommend taking 5 to 6 grams of fish oil supplements per day.
- Ginger—Add ground ginger or fresh, chopped ginger into foods, or make a hot infusion with fresh ginger root. You can also find high-potency ginger supplements. I recommend 150 to 250 mg a day.
You can learn much more about the many other natural approaches to combatting the pain, stiffness, and swelling associated with back pain and arthritis in my Arthritis Relief and Reversal Protocol. This innovative, online learning tool discusses a drug-free plan for easing and eliminating chronic joint pain. To learn more, or to enroll today, click here now!
P.S. Through my career, I traveled the globe studying and researching effective natural solutions that fight aging. And this Sunday, February 21st at 3:00 PM (EDT), I’ll be hosting my Ultimate Longevity Summit to share with you everything I’ve learned. Space is limited for the FREE, online event…so click here to reserve your spot today!
“Lower Back Pain: NSAID + Muscle Relaxant No Better Than NSAID + Placebo.” Medscape, 11/5/20. (medscape.com/viewarticle/940470#vp_1)