First—talk with your health care provider before taking and/or combining supplements or herbs with prescription or OTC medications.
Written by Amy Hess-Fischl, MS, RD, LDN, BC-ADM, CDE
For some people whose chronic back or neck pain is not adequately controlled with pain relievers, dietary supplements may seem like an attractive option. Many dietary supplements and herbs are advertised as treatments for pain and inflammation. While some people may find herbs and supplements helpful in relieving or reducing their pain, it is important to know these are not magic pills that can cure pain or the depression that can accompany chronic or painful spine-related conditions.
Having a discussion with your health care provider is vital before you consume any type of supplement.Nutrition and Dietary Supplements
Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains helps keep your body in good shape. Foods high in antioxidants, such as green, leafy vegetables and berries, may be helpful in fighting inflammation.
Supplements and herbs that some people have found helpful to reduce inflammation and pain, include those listed below. However, it’s prudent to point out that several of these supplements can increase the risk for bleeding. Therefore, it bears repeating that having a discussion with your health care provider is vital before you consume any type of supplement.
Omega-3 fatty acids
- Such as flaxseed and fish oils.
- Omega-3 fatty acids can increase the risk of bleeding and potentially interfere with blood-thinning medications such as warfarin (Coumadin) and aspirin.
- While some studies show these supplements may help relieve arthritis pain, they have not been studied specifically as a treatment for low back pain.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin may interact with blood-thinning medications such as warfarin (Coumadin) and aspirin.
- Some research suggests MSM helps relieve arthritis pain.
- This enzyme may reduce inflammation.
- It may increase the risk of bleeding, so people who take blood thinners should not take this supplement without firstconsulting their health care provider.
- Bromelain may interact with some antibiotic medications.
- Do not take bromelain if you have a peptic ulcer.
Herbs may come in the form of pills, capsules or tablets; teas; or tinctures/liquid extracts.
- Is used for to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Turmeric can increase the risk of bleeding, especially for people who take blood-thinning medication.
- Is used to reduce pain.
- Devil’s claw may increase the risk of bleeding and interact with diabetes medications.
- Devil’s claw can affect the heart and may cause problems for people with gallstones.
- Is used to relieve pain.
- Do not take white willow if you are also taking aspirin or blood-thinning medications.
- Do not take willow bard if you are allergic to aspirin or salicylates.
- Do not give willow bark to children under the age of 18.
- The cream is applied to the skin to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Capsaicin is the main component in hot chili peppers.
Things to Remember About Supplements
- Dietary supplements and herbs do not need approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before they are marketed or sold.
- Herbs can have drug-like effects on the body.
- A product sold as a dietary supplement and promoted on its label as a treatment, prevention or cure for a specific disease or condition is considered an unapproved—and thus illegal—drug.
Certain supplements and herbs may interact with prescription and/or over-the-counter medicines you already take. Such drug interactions may cause adverse and even potentially life-threatening effects.
It is especially important for you to check with your health care provider before taking supplements if you are pregnant, nursing a baby or have a chronic medical condition (such as diabetes, hypertension or heart disease).