Cayenne is a natural substance sometimes used in treatment of low back pain. Derived from either the Capsicum annuum L. or Capsicum frutescens L. plant, cayenne is typically applied topically as a plaster when used in treatment of low back pain. In some cases, cayenne is applied in gel form to treat low back pain.
Why Do People Use Cayenne to Treat Low Back Pain?
Cayenne contains capsaicin, the chemical responsible for giving cayenne peppers their spicy kick. Capsaicin is known to act as a natural analgesic (a substance that alleviates pain). Although scientists haven't confirmed how or why cayenne might help relieve low back pain, it's thought that capsaicin may help inhibit certain neurons involved in creating sensations of pain.
Benefits of Cayenne for Low Back Pain
Although research on the use of cayenne in treatment of low back pain is fairly limited, there's some evidence that cayenne-containing products may be of some benefit for back pain relief.
In a 2006 report from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, for instance, scientists looked at the available research on the use of herbal medicine in treatment of low back pain. In their analysis of three trials on cayenne-containing topical treatments, the review's authors found "moderate evidence" that cayenne was more effective than placebo in relieving low back pain. The researchers, however, deemed the trials lower quality and called for further research into the potential effectiveness of cayenne as a treatment for low back pain.
The available trials include a 2003 study published in the journal Pain, which included 320 patients with low back pain. For the study, participants were randomly assigned to treatment with either a cayenne plaster or a placebo plaster. After three weeks of treatment, members of the cayenne group showed a significantly greater improvement in pain. Given this finding, the study's authors concluded that cayenne plasters offer "a genuine alternative in the treatment of non-specific low back pain."
Is Cayenne a Safe Treatment for Low Back Pain?
When applied topically as a plaster, cayenne is generally considered safe in the treatment of low back pain. However, cayenne may trigger certain side effects, including irritation, burning, and itching. If you have a skin condition (or sensitive skin), it's important to consult your physician prior to using cayenne.
Where to Find Cayenne
Often referred to as "capsicum plasters," cayenne-containing topical treatments for low back pain are sold online and in some drugstores and natural-food stores.
Should You Use Cayenne to Treat Low Back Pain?
While research on cayenne's effectiveness against low back pain is limited, it's possible that use of cayenne-containing topical treatments may be of some benefit in alleviating low back pain.
If you're struggling with low back pain, several other types of alternative medicine may help relieve your pain. For example, research indicates that acupuncture, yoga, and massage therapy may benefit people with low back pain.
In some cases, low back pain may be the result of underlying health problems, such as sciatica or arthritis. Therefore, it's important to seek medical advice if you're struggling with chronic low back pain. Self-treating low back pain with cayenne (or any other type of alternative treatment) and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.
Frerick H, Keitel W, Kuhn U, Schmidt S, Bredehorst A, Kuhlmann M. "Topical treatment of chronic low back pain with a capsicum plaster." Pain. 2003 Nov;106(1-2):59-64.
Gagnier JJ, van Tulder M, Berman B, Bombardier C. "Herbal medicine for low back pain." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Apr 19;(2):CD004504.
Keitel W, Frerick H, Kuhn U, Schmidt U, Kuhlmann M, Bredehorst A. "Capsicum pain plaster in chronic non-specific low back pain." Arzneimittelforschung. 2001 Nov;51(11):896-903.