Nutrition supplements vs. pharmaceuticals for low back pain

by | Sep 17, 2010 | Low Back Health | 0 comments

pill bottle

If you have low back problems, you’re ready to do nearly anything to get some relief.

If you see your medical doctor, you may get a prescription for some “helpful” drugs.  The common types of drugs prescribed for low back pain are:

  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAID’s),
  • muscle relaxants, and
  • opiate pain relievers.

None of these directly attack the underlying cause of your back problem. And each of them has the potential for harmful side effects.

Fortunately, there are nutrition supplements that some authorities believe to be effective at relieving pain, limiting inflammation, and rebuilding healthy tissues. What’s even better is that the side effects of these nutrition products are positive ones. Instead of swallowing chemicals that try to override your body’s physiological processes, your body will be getting the building blocks you need for health.

Here are some of the most important nutritional pain fighters:

  • Essential fatty acids

The balance of fatty acids that most Americans consume is so far out of whack that you’re prone to pain and inflammation. Many people take supplemental fish oil to address this imbalance. And there are supplements that combine marine oils with beneficial oils from plants (borage, flax seed, and others.)

But unless you drastically cut back your intake of harmful vegetable oils – corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil, to name a few – you’ll never get your fatty acids in balance.  These oils are widely used in processed and prepared foods.  Be aware!

  • Vitamin D

Shockingly, one-third to one-half of Americans may be deficient in vitamin D.  And, since low levels of D are correlated with chronic pain, those with low back problems are even more likely to be short of this important vitamin.

  • Anti-inflammatory herbs: boswellia, curcumin, and white willow bark

These herbs are thought to have an anti-inflammatory effect, limiting pain and speeding tissue healing.  Use them in combination.

  • Glucosamine sulfate

Glucosamine is a building block for the cartilage that forms the discs between the bones of the low back.  Many experts believe that using glucosamine as a supplement reduces pain and rebuilds a healthier back in the long run.

  • Proteolytic enzymes

These are enzymes which are used to digest the proteins in our diet.  Bromelain (found in mango) and papain (from pineapple) are two examples.  If you take them with a meal, they’ll work in your stomach to help process the proteins you’re eating.  But if you take them in between meals, their effect will bypass the stomach and help alleviate pain and swelling in injured areas of your body. Here’s one of the research studies proving the effectiveness of this method.

More information?  Contact Dr. Lavine at

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