Back and neck pain are leading causes for absenteeism in the work place and with the aging population this statistic is increasing. Sports injuries create their own special pain even if an injury is not perceived by the participant.
Treating pain naturally has also gained in popularity with more people seeking a non-pharmaceutical approach. From a biochemical perspective, it is important to remember that the chemicals which cause inflammation are the same ones that cause pain. Therefore, the goal with supplementation should be to help reduce inflammation.
In a previous article in this section a discussion of external methods of treating inflammation and pain was discussed by using the R.I.C.E. acronym. Here are a few important supplements to help accomplish a reduction in inflammation and pain:
Fish oil is one of the more popular supplements on the market today and can be taken by almost anyone who is not taking blood-thinning medications such as Warfarin (Coumadin). Studies have shown that supplemental fish oil is helpful for patients with neck pain and back pain, as well as joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and ulcerative colitis.
Vitamin D has emerged in recent years as a vitamin that has anti-inflammatory and anti-pain benefits. Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are inflammatory in nature and known to be associated with vitamin D deficiency. Low back pain and widespread pain that can be confused with Fibromyalgia are also known to be associated with vitamin D deficiency. We get vitamin D from the sun, but its production is reduced 95 percent when a sunscreen with a sun-protective factor (SPF) of 8 or greater is applied to the skin. There are no foods that contain adequate amounts of vitamin D, so we must either get vitamin D from the sun or from supplements.
Magnesium: More than 300 enzymes require magnesium, so it is involved in an inordinate amount of metabolic reactions. From a clinical perspective, the average American’s intake of magnesium is well below the recommended daily allowance (RDA) and this has been associated with the expression of numerous conditions including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, headache, chronic inflammation, and an increase in nervous system excitability. Approximately 400 mg of supplemental magnesium per day is thought to be adequate for most individuals.
Probiotics: Research is emerging that implicates poor digestive function with musculoskeletal pain expression. This speaks to the need to drastically reduce our consumption of sugar, flour products and refined oils that are devoid of fiber and known to compromise healthy gut bacteria. Supplementation with healthy bacteria called probiotics (Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria) are known to reduce intestinal inflammation, and for many this translates into less musculoskeletal pain as well.
Ginger and Turmeric: Most herbs that are used to spice meals are known to have anti-inflammatory functions. Ginger and Turmeric are the most well-studied in the context of inflammation and pain. Each has been shown to reduce musculoskeletal pain. The most economical way to take ginger and turmeric is with meals as an added spice. However, supplements are available and widely utilized.
B Vitamins: The creation of cellular energy requires most B-complex vitamins. While B vitamins are not traditionally viewed as anti-inflammatory or analgesic, human and animal research suggests that B-vitamin supplementation may offer pain-reducing benefits.
Other Herbs that are known to reduce inflammation and are often found in combinations would include; Boswellia, Devils claw root, Cats claw bark, Pau d’ Arco bark, White Oak bark and White Willow Bark.
Talk to your doctor before taking any nutritional supplement, particularly if you have a pre-existing health condition and/or are taking medication.