5) Vitamin D
Chronic muscle pain can be a symptom of vitamin D deficiency. What's more, some research suggests that treatment with vitamin D supplements may lead to clinical improvement in back pain symptoms among people with low initial concentrations of vitamin D, according to a 2005 report published in the British Medical Journal.
An essential nutrient available in certain foods (such as fortified milk and fish with small bones), vitamin D is produced naturally by the body during exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays. But since it's difficult to obtain your recommended daily intake of D solely through dietary sources and sun exposure, many medical experts recommend increasing your vitamin D levels by taking a dietary supplement.
Learn more about Vitamin D.
6) Anti-Inflammatory Herbs
Since inflammation is thought to play a role in the development of back pain, certain herbs thought to have anti-inflammatory effects may be useful for back pain relief.
White willow bark for instance, may have pain-relieving properties similar to aspirin. Known as salicin, a compound found in white willow bark is converted in the body to salicylic acid. (Similarly, aspirin is also converted to salicylic acid once in the body.) Salicylic acid is believed to be the active compound that relieves pain and inflammation.
Another herb sometimes used in treatment of back pain is devil's claw. Devil's claw contains harpagosides, which are chemical compounds found to possess anti-inflammatory properties.
In a 2007 research review published in Spine, both white willow bark and devil's claw were found to reduce pain more effectively than placebo. Since many of the trials included in the review were of poor quality, the review's authors call for further trials testing the use of these herbs against standard treatments for low back pain.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. Involved in over 300 biochemical reactions, it helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and preserves bones strength. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.
Published in the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, a 2001 study of 82 patients with chronic low back pain found that use of mineral supplements was associated with a reduction in pain symptoms in 76 participants. In addition, the supplements were found to increase intracellular magnesium levels by 11 percent.
Yoga creates balance in the body through various poses that develop flexibility and strength. There's some evidence that taking up a yoga practice may help relieve back pain.
For a 2011 research review published in Clinical Rheumatology, investigators looked at seven clinical trials that tested the effects of yoga in patients in with low back pain. Of those studies, five suggested that yoga leads to a significantly greater reduction in low back pain than usual care, education, or conventional therapeutic exercises. However, the other two studies showed that yoga was no more effective than other types of care for low back pain.
In a 2008 report published in Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine, researchers found that yoga may be helpful in managing low back pain, but note that patients should consult their health care providers for help in finding yoga instructors with experience in working with people with low back pain.
Read more about yoga for back pain.
9) Vitamin B12
A study published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences in 2000 examined the safety and effectiveness of vitamin B12 injections for low back pain. Involving 60 patients, the study found that those who received vitamin B12 injections experienced a statistically significant reduction in pain and disability. They also used less pain medication than those who received a placebo.
Besides pain, other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are numbness and tingling, irritability, mild memory impairment, and depression. Risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency are:
- pernicious anemia
- use of certain medications (including stomach acid-blocking medications)
- inadequate intake of meat or dairy products
- infection (such as small intestine bacterial overgrowth, parasites)
- digestive diseases (including celiac disease and Crohn's disease)
Vitamin B12 muscle injections are the standard treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency. Studies have found that vitamin B12 sublingual tablets (placed under the tongue for absorption) and nasal gel are also effective.
See vitamin B12 for more about this vitamin.
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