Like 65 million Americans, you’ve likely had a bout of back pain, and you may have treated it with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine like ibuprofen. But a study at Canada’s McGill University shows the meds may do more harm than good. Researcher Luda Diatchenko, MD, PhD, explains, “People who had acute back pain and took NSAIDs had double the likelihood of chronic back pain versus those not taking the drugs.”
“Chronic inflammation is harmful, but acute inflammation can be therapeutic,” explains Thomas E. Buchheit, MD, director of the Duke Center for Translational Pain Medicine. “White blood cells show up to the injured area and start a healing cascade. But prolonged use of anti-inflammatories can short-circuit this response, potentially increasing chronic pain.” The great news: There are natural remedies for back pain — without side effects. Just read on for simple ways to soothe your aches once and for all.
This ‘trio’ is the best supplement.
“Unlike NSAIDs, the spice turmeric reduces harmful inflammation naturally, and it doesn’t appear to impede the body’s repair mechanisms,” says Dr. Buchheit, who advises taking 250 to 500 milligrams of turmeric extract daily. To boost the benefits, consider taking a blend of turmeric, boswellia and black sesame seed oil daily. A study in the journal Medicine found that doing so for one week eased back pain as well as acetaminophen. One to try: Terry Naturally CuraMed Acute Pain Relief with Curcumin, Boswellia & Black Seed Sesame Oil (Buy from FindYourHealthyPlace.com, $41.56).
Strike a cat-cow pose is the best move.
Exercise is just about the best-studied and most effective way to relieve back pain, says Haider Warraich, MD, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, who struggles with back pain. An exercise that helps him: On all fours, inhale as you arch your back and lift your chin and chnatural remedies for back pain and inflammationest, then exhale and round your back. Hold each pose for 10 seconds; repeat. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who did stretches like this for three months reported significantly less back pain than those who didn’t. Also helpful: “While you walk, imagine wading into a cold ocean,” says acupuncturist Esther Gokhale, author of 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back. “Your spine will elongate as you try to ‘escape’ the water and your muscles will contract, strengthening your back and easing pain.”
The right fat ratio is the best diet tweak.
A diet high in omega-6 fats can lead to chronic pain by triggering out-of-control inflammation, report researchers in Nature Metabolism. “Cutting back on foods high in omega-6s, like red meat and margarine, and focusing on foods that reduce inflammation, like fish and leafy green vegetables, is so important,” says physiatrist Reuben Chen, MD. To get the perks, aim to decrease omega-6s and increase omega-3s, because what matters is the ratio of fats, rather than the absolute amount of either. “One easy change is choosing more plant-based fats, like olive oil, instead of animal fats,” says dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade. “Aim for a ratio of one to four omega-3s to omega-6s. Just having a handful of walnuts or sprinkling chia seeds in your smoothies can favorably shift the ratio.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.
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