Back Pain Resource Center - dietary options to help reduce back pain

Losing Weight
Cartilage - an alternative to anti inflammatory medication
Ginger - for inflammation


Losing Weight

While I know this sounds like an obvious way to help with back pain, it is very easy to put on a bunch of weight once you have injured your back. For me, it began slowly because I could no longer exercise on a regular basis. I then switched to sweat pants during the winter so I would be comfortable, and just did not really notice as the pounds started to creep on. Once spring came around and I tried to wear shorts, I was shocked to find out that I couldn't fit into them! And, not coincidentally, my back pain also seemed to be worse since I had gained the weight.

Losing weight was a bear, and I have had to fight putting on weight over the years of my inactivity, but I always feel better when I am slimmer. I wish I had a miracle program for losing weight, but I have found it difficult to do when I am inactive. For me, it is as simple, or as hard, as eating less and exercising more. Also, I seem to keep a more even weight when I eat a lot more fresh (uncooked) fruits and vegetables.

Talk with your doctor about the different ways gaining weight may affect your back and increase your back pain, and then try to find a sensible diet/exercise program to take off the weight. It really does help me, I just wish it weren't so darn hard to keep the weight off.

Cartilage - an alternative to anti- inflammatory medication
I took anti-inflammatory medication for years, and often felt like it was causing me stomach pain and other problems. Then I heard about shark and bovine (cow) cartilage, and read a few studies which seemed to show that the cartilage helped with arthritis and other pain/inflammation problems. I decided on using shark, because at that time it was readily available in the health food store (under a variety of brand names). Since that time, bovine has also become available (under the name Vita Carte) as well.

In general, these cartilage supplements do not work like standard anti-inflammatory medication. They don't work instantly, instead they take some time to begin to show effect (they say 1 - 2 months). While I am quite skeptical of many of the claims these cartilage manufacturers make, I did find that using the cartilage seemed to help and I was able to stop taking all other anti-inflammatory medication. I know this may have been the placebo effect, but when I missed a few days or tried to cut back, I found that I felt a difference and was noticeably stiffer.

In general, I took about 9 pills a day - 3 750mg pills at a time, 3 times a day. Cartilage supplements tend to be pricey, so shop around and look into the internet companies selling supplements which may offer good discounts. And if you are going to give it a try, use them for a month or two before trying to decide if they are helping with your pain.

Ginger - for inflammation
One of the most common herbs prescribed for inflammation is ginger. While you can just eat it raw, it is usually easier and much more pleasant to take it dried and in pill form. I have tried ginger on a few occassions when I had a lot of achiness, and it did seem to make a slight difference. But I really only have used it sporadically when I had some real flare ups of pain and remembered to try the ginger we happen to have in the cupboard for an upset stomach. After the flare up was over, I would forget to keep taking ginger until the next big flare up 6 months later. So I really don't have a consistent track record of taking ginger that would let me know if it really works for me or not. If you are having lots of inflammation, though, it may be worth a shot as it certainly is an inexpensive alternative.