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How Do I Choose the Best Herbal Treatment for Back Pain?

By Judith Smith Sullivan
Updated May 17, 2024
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Choosing the best herbal treatment for back pain requires the help of a physician to diagnose the cause of your pain and to prescribe the proper course of treatment. There are several herbal treatments, including oral and and topical supplements, which can reduce back pain. In some cases, these treatments cannot be used with other types of medication or if the patient has certain medical conditions. Depending on the cause of the back pain, some treatments may be more beneficial than others, so you may have to try several treatments in order to find the one that works best for you.

When you visit your physician to discuss your back pain, take a list of any pre-existing medical conditions and medications that you currently take. This list should include vitamins and other herbal supplements and whether you are pregnant, may be pregnant, or are trying to conceive. Share your list with your physician and then ask for a recommendation for an herbal treatment for back pain. You may need to consult a specialist who focuses on alternative medicine and herbal therapies instead of a typical family doctor or general practitioner.

There are both oral and topical herbal treatments for back pain. Both devil's claw and willow bark are often used. Devil's claw may ease muscle tension and reduce inflammation when taken regularly over a period of several weeks. Willow bark also reduces inflammation because of a chemical called salicin, which is similar to aspirin. Both herbal remedies should be avoided if you have certain medical conditions, so your physician should look at your medical history and current condition carefully before you take either.

A chemical called capsaicin, that is found in cayenne pepper, is used topically as an herbal treatment for back pain. Capsaicin affects the nerves so that the pain signal is not sent to the brain, providing the patient with temporary relief. It is applied directly to the painful area up to four times a day and is most effective after several days of use. Cayenne pepper and capsaicin can cause irritation or an allergic reaction. Using either with a heating pad, before or after a hot shower, or on broken skin is not recommended.

In some cases, a vitamin deficiency can cause chronic pain. Deficiencies in vitamin D and vitamin B12 can cause pain but can also be cured with supplements. Blood tests can confirm if you have a vitamin deficiency. An alternative medicine specialist can recommend the best herbal supplements and food to correct a vitamin deficiency.

There are several other alternatives to traditional medicine in addition to herbal treatment for back pain. Chiropractic care, acupunture, massage, yoga, and practices like the Alexander technique, can reduce or eliminate certain types of back pain. In some cases, supervised exercises designed to strengthen the muscles in the back can also alleviate the pain.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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