The back is one of the most common health problems in the Unites States. The doctors who author the annual text Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment say that 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their life, and this problem ranks second among reasons to visit a doctor (Bauman, 2012). This means many of us are suffering or will suffer from back pain within our lives. In 1997 it was reported that the average expense for those who suffered from back pain spent around $4,695. From 1997 until 2005 the cost ranged to about $6,096. Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old (Ehrlich, 2012).
The most common type of treatment one might receive from a physician is nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs other known as NSAID’S, hot and cold packs, bed rest, and surgery. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, surgery is helpful in only one out of every one hundred cases of back pain (Bauman, 2012). Post surgery requires bed rest and lots of painkillers. So what are some other ways to relieve back pain without surgery or medications? Nutrients of course!
Glucosamine, a modified sugar molecule that is produced by our cells, consists of glucose and the amino acid glutamine. Glucosamine helps to build the proteoglycan molecules that keep cartilage slippery and strong (Bauman, 2012). It stimulates the chondrocytes to produce more collagen and proteoglycans and it also normalizes cartilage which prevents deterioration. In one study of the effects of glucosamine on pain, arthritis patients taking glucosamine achieved a significant reduction in pain after just six weeks, and glucosamine ultimately relieved pain more effectively than ibuprofen (Bauman, 2012).
Chondroitin sulfate has also been associated with healthy cartilage. It acts as a liquid magnet attracting fluid into the proteoglycan molecule. This improves the shock absorption and pushes nutrients into the cartilage. The general dosage for those who can benefit from both glucosamine and chondroitin is 1,000-2,000mg daily (Barron, 2005).
Vitamin A is also a very important vitamin since it keeps bones healthy as well as keeping tendons and ligaments healthy. A deficiency in vitamin A results in joint pain, because the bones and tissues have difficulty in regenerating (med-express). Sources are grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, oils, and fish. Eating dried fruits and nuts is a great way to maintain bone healthy and to prevent osteoporosis. Seaweed is also very beneficial to add to any diet. It is high in vitamins and minerals. It contains high levels of iron, calcium, iodine and phosphorus. Seaweed is an excellent source for vitamins A, B, C, and E.
There are several herbs that can also be used to alleviate back pain. They can be taken in pills, capsules, teas, and tinctures. Turmeric when taken 300mg three times daily can help relieve back pain and inflammation. Devils claw is known for its pain relieving effects. One study showed that more than 50% of people with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip or low back pain who took devil’s claw reported less pain and better mobility after 8 weeks (Ehrlich, 2012).
These are some of the many nutrients that can be added to your diet to alleviate back pain. To maintain your back’s health and your overall health you should adopt a diet rich in fruits and fresh vegetables, avoiding animal fat, sugar, salt, alcohol, tea and coffee (Med-express). It is important not to overeat, under eat, avoid allergen foods or food sensitivities (gluten, eggs, corn, sugar, dairy, and soy), and foods that cause destabilization of hormone balance. Drinking plenty of water will maintain the shock-absorbing task of the cartilage. These tips can help you reduce pain, or help you maintain a healthy back!
- Bauman, E., Friedlander, J. (2011). Therapeutic Nutrition. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College.
- Barron, J. (2005, Sep 1). A five-pronged approach to chronic joint pain and inflammation. Baseline of Health. Retrieved from http://www.jonbarron.org/print/ anti-aging/ barron-report- joint-pain-inflammation
- Ehrlich, Steven. “Low back pain.” University of Maryland Medical Center. 20 Jan. 2012. 09 July 2013 <http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/low-back-pain>.
Med-Express.” Diet for a strong back. Advameg, Inc. 08 July 2013 <http://www.faqs.org/oc/Overcoming-Backache/Diet-for-a-strong-back.html>.