If you’re one of the 80 percent of people who suffers from low back pain at one point or another in their lives, there’s something that you need to know before you see your doctor — and accept the prescription he’s going to write out for you.
That prescription probably isn’t going to work.
But even worse, while it’s a pretty sure bet it will do nothing for your pain, it could lead to problematic or even dangerous side effects.
Here’s what you need to know…
No meaningful relief for back pain
The medication we’re talking about is muscle relaxers. And they’re one of the most commonly prescribed options for low back pain.
In fact, statistics show that in 2020 alone, more than 30 million prescriptions for muscle relaxants were written in the United States.
So you would think that with so many doctors handing out orders for these drugs that they must work, right?
Nope — not according to a team of researchers in Australia.
Their study, published in BMJ, analyzed the evidence from 31 trials involving more than 6,500 back pain sufferers.
Each of these trials compared the effectiveness and safety of muscle relaxers to a placebo, usual care or no treatment at all.
And their results showed that although taking a non-benzodiazepine muscle relaxant drug might reduce pain intensity at two weeks or less for patients with acute low back pain compared with controls — that was a big MIGHT.
That’s because, according to the researchers, the level of relief provided by the drugs did not even “meet common thresholds to be clinically meaningful.” They also say that when it came to the effects of muscle relaxants on pain intensity at 3 – 13 weeks, as well as for disability on follow-up, the drugs offered little to no effect.
And here’s where the news actually gets worse…
Despite finding those muscle relaxants simply don’t work for back pain, the researchers found that they very well could cause you to experience side effects.
The most common of these include:
And, while at first glance, that list may seem full of minor nuisances, dizziness can be especially worrisome for seniors, leading to falls, injuries and even hospitalization. Drowsiness can affect your ability to concentrate or drive safely. And who needs headache and nausea on top of back pain?
More muscle relaxant dangers
And there’s one more thing you need to know before you decide to fill any prescription for muscle relaxants.
When you combine these drugs with a common antibiotic, it could trigger a heart attack.
So think twice when it comes to these drugs and weigh the pros and cons carefully.
And if you decide to skip the pharmacy for natural back pain relief, numerous options can help.
One research-backed approach is acupressure, which has been shown to relieve both pain and the fatigue that can go along with hurting.
Natural pain remedies to consider include:
- Arnica (Arnica montana): an herbal pain reliever cream, ointment, salve, or tincture used to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and even help heal skin wounds. Its use for medicinal purposes goes back to the 1500s.
- White willow bark (Salix alba): contains salicin (similar to acetylsalicylic acid of Aspirin).
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa): safe and quite effective to relieve various sources of pain: joint, head, and more. It has been studied and found to be as effective as Ibuprofen for arthritis pain, yet safer on the stomach.
- Lidocaine and capsaicin can be compounded into topical salves that can be quite effective even to deeper tissues.
- Black cumin seed oil helps calm the body’s natural pain signals. In a 2012 study of 40 women with severe joint pain that took the active ingredient in Black Cumin Seed Oil – all 40 reported “significant improvement” in their condition.
- Vitamin D. Some evidence supports that a deficiency in this vitamin can make a person prone to muscle spasm. It also soothes inflammatory pain.
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Infographic: Back Pain — Mayo Clinic