Five Natural Ways To Fight Back Pain


  • By Robin Westen

    Got a bad back? Well, you’re not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, back pain is the second most common neurological disorder in the United States. (Headaches come first.) The good news? There are effective ways you can ease your back pain without taking drugs. But here’s a caveat: first check with your doctor. You want to be sure the pain is caused by muscle strain, rather than a more serious disorder. Once you’ve cleared the way, you can try these natural treatments.


    : In a two year study conducted in the United Kingdom, it was found that patients who received acupuncture once a week not only reduced their back pain, but reported a significant reduction in worry about their pain compared to a group that received more conventional treatments such as analgesics. An acupuncture treatment generally costs between $60 and $120. Acupuncture is tax-deductible (it's considered a medical expense) and some insurance plans pay for treatments.
  • Capsaicin Cream Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers. When it’s applied to the skin, it creates an analgesic effect. In one double-blind study, 160 people were treated with capsaicin for 3 weeks, while another 160 people used a placebo. Pain was reduced by 42% in the capsaicin group compared to 31% in the placebo group. The cream is available in drug and health food stores as well as on-line. Use gloves when smearing it on and wash your hands right after applying.
  • Vitamin D Chronic muscle pain can be a symptom of vitamin D deficiency. Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency include darker skin pigment, digestive disorders and minimal sun exposure. A study by the University of Minnesota looked at the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in 150 people with chronic musculoskeletal pain. Researchers found that 93% of patients had vitamin D deficiency.
  • Music Therapy A study evaluating the influence of music therapy in hospitalized patients with chronic back pain showed that the music therapy significantly reduced disability, anxiety, and depression. Music also had an immediate effect on reducing pain.
  • Vitamin B12 A double-blind Italian study examined the safety and effectiveness of vitamin B12 for low back pain. People who received it showed a statistically significant reduction in pain.

    Robin Westen is ThirdAge's medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. Her latest book, with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is "V Is For Vagina."