For many back and neck pain are just a part of life. As Chiropractors, we address physical and biomechanical changes to our patients bodies to help alleviate pain, injury or other maladies.
Outside of medications like NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen, Opiates, or muscle relaxers there are supplements with strong research behind them as to the therapeutic benefits of decreasing neck and back pain.
Supplement to Decrease Neck and Back Pain #1. Fish Oil
I recommend is taking 1,200 milligrams of fish oil per day. A study published by Joseph Maroon and Jeffrey Bost in the 2006 Journal of Surgical Neurology had some pretty interesting findings. Joseph Maroon, who was the neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Jeffrey Bost from the Department Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that in nonsurgical neck or back pain patients participating in the study, 59% of the participants discontinued their use of prescription NSAID medications for pain after 75 days on fish oil. Eighty-eight percent of the participants were satisfied with their improvement and said that they would continue with the fish oil.
There were no significant side effects reported as with NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), which include extreme complications such as gastric ulcers, bleeding, myocardial infarctions, and even death. The authors concluded that Omega-3 fish oil supplements appeared to be a safer alternative to NSAIDs for treatment of nonsurgical neck or back pain. That’s neck or back-related issues that aren’t requiring surgery. The fish oil works by blocking enzymes in the body that are precursors, to inflammatory mediators. These are chemicals that drive the body to experience and feel pain.
The US Department of Agriculture has suggested limiting fish consumption to one serving per week in adults, and less in children and pregnant women, because of the concern of toxic contaminants such as mercury and dioxin. Just eating fish may not be recommended. Fish oil supplements themselves have been found to contain very low levels of these contaminants. For those who cannot take fish oil due to the taste or being on blood thinners, I recommend getting the Omega-3 fatty acids from chia and flax seeds—seeds, not the oils.
Supplement to Decrease Neck and Back Pain #2. Magnesium
Supplement you diet with magnesium. Ask your doctor or nutritionist about adding magnesium supplements to your diet. Magnesium is the essential mineral that helps contract and relax muscles, arteries, and blood vessels, and the supplement may help one avoid neck muscle pain. Magnesium is found in certain fruits, vegetables, nuts, peas, and whole grains. You can also absorb magnesium by soaking in Epsom salt bath. Magnesium is known to decrease neuronal excitability, which has been linked to neck pain and neck pain-related conditions such as migraine headaches.
The part of your neck that connects to the base of your skull carry tiny blood vessels and arteries along with small muscles that stabilize your head and neck and provide blood circulation to your brain. Magnesium helps these vessels, arteries, and muscles stay relaxed and maintain a healthy tone, which decreases neck tension and headaches. The National Institute of Health states that 68% of Americans are magnesium deficient. Other experts put that number closer to 80% of the US population.
Other conditions associated with magnesium deficiency include headaches, sudden deaths, accelerated atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, renal tubular disorder, and osteosclerosis, which can lead to bone pain, diabetes mellitus, asthma, preeclampsia, eclampsia, as well as neurological and psychiatric conditions. A 2002 study published in the Journal of American Medicine found, and I quote: “In the absence of specific predisposing conditions, a usual North American diet is deficient in magnesium.”
It’s safe to say you could take 400 to 600 milligrams of magnesium a day.
Supplement to Decrease Neck and Back Pain #3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for enhancing intestinal absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. In humans, the most important compounds.
In this group are vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, and vitamin D2, ergocalciferol. Cholecalciferol and ergocalciferol can be ingested from the diet and from supplements. The body can also synthesize vitamin D in the skin from cholesterol when sun exposure is adequate, hence the nickname, “The sunshine vitamin.”
Synthesis from exposure to sunlight and intake from the diet generally attribute to the maintenance of the adequate serum vitamin D concentrations. That’s vitamin D in the blood. A particularly interesting study published in Spine in January, 2003, looked at vitamin D deficiency in chronic lower back pain in Saudi Arabia. Believe it or not, a good percentage of the population, specifically women who wear burkas, do not get enough sunlight, which is your body’s main source of getting vitamin D. The study involved 360 patients, 90% women and 10% men, attending spinal and internal medicine clinics over a six-year period who have experienced lower back pain that had no obvious cause for more than six months.
The patients range in age from age 15 to 52 years old. The researchers used lab results to determine if the patients were deficient in vitamin D. Findings showed that 83% of the studied patients had an abnormally low level of vitamin D before treatment with vitamin D supplements. After treatment, clinical improvements in all symptoms were seen in all groups that had a low level of vitamin D. The study concluded that in 95% of all the patients, vitamin D deficiency is a major contributor to chronic lower back pain in areas where vitamin D deficiency is endemic.
Screening for vitamin D deficiency and treatment with supplements should be mandatory in this setting. Measurement of serum 25-(OH) cholecalciferol is a sensitive and specific detection of vitamin D deficiency and hence, for presumed osteomalacia and patients with chronic lower back pain. The Mayo Clinic reports that adults who have severe vitamin D deficiency may experience bone pain and softness as well as muscle weakness.
Osteomalacia has been found among the following people: those who are elderly and have diets low in vitamin D; those who have problems absorbing vitamin D; those with inadequate sun exposure; those who undergo stomach or intestinal surgery; those with bone disease caused by aluminum; those with chronic liver disease; and those with bone disease associated with kidney problems. Treatment for osteomalacia depends on the cause of the disease and often includes pain control and surgery as well as vitamin D and phosphate-binding agents.
The good news about getting your vitamin D is that it is abundant in most parts of the world, and free. By getting small amounts of sunlight each day, one can raise their serum vitamin D levels. That’s vitamin D levels in the blood.
By getting small amounts of sunlight daily one can raise their vitamin D levels, otherwise consider supplementing with 1,000 to 5,000 IUs a day.
Supplement to Decrease Neck and Back Pain #4. Glucosamine Chondroitin Sulfate
Glucosamine Sulfate is the main component of joint cartilage. Glucosamine Sulfate is derived from the shells of shellfish and also vegetable sources.
Glucosamine Chondroitin Sulfate may help lubricate joints, help prevent the breakdown of cartilage and act as has anti-inflammatory properties similar to NSAIDS.
A 2005 review of 20 glucosamine studies found an improvement in joint pain, stiffness and function with one brnd of glucosamine (Rottapharm, marketed as Dona, Viartril and Xicil) but not others.
The largest study to date, the 2006 Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT) looked at 1,600 people with knee OA. The first phase found that a small subset of patients with moderate-to-severe arthritis experienced significant pain relief from combined glucosamine and chondroitin. The 2008 phase found that glucosamine and chondroitin, together or alone, did not slow joint damage. And in the two-year-long 2010 phase, glucosamine and chondroitin were found as effective for knee OA as celecoxib (Celebrex).
Research also suggests glucosamine may slow joint damage. A 2008 retrospective study of nearly 300 patients found those using glucosamine underwent half as many joint replacement surgeries as those on placebo.
The recommended daily dose fo Glucosamine Chondroitin Sulfate is 1,500 mg once daily or in 500 mg in three doses throughout the day.
If you have any additional questions about supplements to help treat back and neck pain or about chiropractic care in Raleigh, please feel free to get in touch here.
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Dr. Jeffrey Gerdes, D.C. “Your Raleigh Chiropractor”