can-turmeric-help-back-pain

Can Turmeric Help Back Pain?

A lot of people take turmeric for back pain, and it’s been used for thousands of years as a healing spice. But what does the evidence say?

Well, there are thousands of scientific papers about how turmeric can help with joint pain, although most of are focussed on knee arthritis.

But that’s still encouraging, for two reasons:

 

turmeric-for-joint-inflammationFirstly, if turmeric can help reduce pain in a large weight-bearing joint like the knee, then it should have a similar effect on other joints, including the ones in the back.

There are lots of small joints in the spine (the facet joints), plus two big ones in the pelvis (the sacroiliac joints). And dysfunction in these joints is a common cause of back pain.

Secondly, turmeric’s healing and pain-relieving properties are mostly down to its ability to effectively reduce inflammation. And inflammation is associated with pain in any tissues, whether it’s the joints or the muscles, the tendons, nerves or ligaments.

So where inflammation is the culprit, turmeric can help.

 

How Does Turmeric Work For Back Pain?

The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant.

it's all about inflammation

Chronic (ongoing) inflammation is the root cause of almost all disease, from osteoarthritis to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even Alzheimer’s. Which is why curcumin has shown promise in helping prevent or treat such a wide range of conditions including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, arthritis, neurological diseases and Crohnʼs disease.

As well as reducing the pain caused by inflamed tissues, it can actually help combat the underlying disease process by quenching the inflammation that’s driving it. For example, it can protect cartilage, which gets eroded by inflammation in osteoarthritis.

It’s worth noting that NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like diclofenac and ibuprofen have the exact opposite effect and can actually accelerate cartilage damage, which is one reason many people choose not to take them long term, as well as the other side effects and risks such as ulcers, stomach bleeds and stroke.

And curcumin’s antioxidant properties help mop up free radicals which cause tissue damage and early ageing, which is why it’s often taken as an anti-ageing product. Again helping reduce the degenerative effects of chronic inflammation.

Inflammation could be localised to the joints that aren’t moving properly, because of old injuries or poor posture. Or muscles having to work harder to compensate for a problem elsewhere, weak muscles on one side of the back eventually cause tight and sore muscles on the other side, for example.

Or it could be more widespread (systemic), as a result of chronic stress or too much sugar or grain intake, which are all too common in the Western diet.

Managing stress better, or changing your diet, are both easy to recommend but harder to do because we get stuck in old habits that perhaps aren’t helping us. But if you have chronic pain linked to ongoing inflammation, then getting a hold of these two things could be one of the best things you ever did.

However, this is where supplements like turmeric can be a big help. Either in helping counteract the effects of unhealthy stress or diet or in giving you an additional boost when you’re already taking steps to manage these better.

bread-sugar-inflammation

In my experience, it’s often a combination of these. And solving the problem means addressing more than one thing. But if inflammation is the common denominator, then anything you can do to help reduce it (ideally without medication) is a good idea.

It’s important to mention that nothing has the same effect on everyone; whether we’re talking supplements, medications or treatment. In part, because no two people are the same. But also because there are different causes for back pain as with anything else.

Not all back pain is caused by inflammation. In some cases, chronic back pain can be due to the brain or nervous system becoming more sensitive to pain. Or if you’re doing something day in day out that your back doesn’t appreciate, like how you sit or move, or get out of bed in the morning, then stopping that is likely the best solution!

 

Not All Turmeric Supplements Are The Same

Many turmeric supplements contain only the isolated curcumin compound because that is what much of the scientific research has been focused on. And other brands contain only the raw turmeric powder, which in itself is not very well absorbed.

Our Happy Joints formula combines both the strongest available concentration of curcuminoids (95%) and the organic turmeric (curcuma longa) root. Because the other compounds, minerals and essential oils in the turmeric root work in combination to produce its impressive healing qualities.

Happy-Joints-turmeric

After that, the two main things to consider when it comes to choosing a turmeric supplement, are how well the body absorbs it, and how pure it is.

Bioavailability

Tumeric on its own doesn’t absorb very well into the body, because of what’s called the first-pass effect. Which is where the concentration of a substance is greatly reduced by the small intestine and liver, before entering the general bloodstream.

One way around this is to add a black pepper extract called piperine, which increases curcumin absorption by 2000% (twenty times). BioPerine is a patented black pepper extract containing 95% piperine.

Lead Contamination

Much of the world’s turmeric is grown in countries like India and Bangladesh, where the farming and food regulations are often quite poor. Some traders use yellow dyes like lead chromate to make their roots and powders look more appealing to buyers, which is why there has been concern over lead contamination in turmeric and other spices.

Buying organic is generally considered a safer bet when it comes to having fewer impurities. But unfortunately, this isn’t always guaranteed, and it still comes down to manufacturers to ensure their products are tested and that lead and other heavy metals are kept well below harmful levels. That’s why as a company, it is important to us that we only provide our customers with very high-quality products.

 

Is It Safe?

Turmeric is considered very safe for most people, and considerably safer than NSAID medication as mentioned previously.

But as with all supplements, it can interact with certain medications, and it’s important to know this before starting any supplement regime. In this case, the most common ones are diabetes medication and blood thinners.

Diabetes MedicationBlood Thinners

Turmeric may increase the effects of diabetic medication such as metformin or insulin. You should always monitor your blood sugar properly, and let your doctor know if you feel unwell or experience any side effects of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia), such as headache, dizziness, drowsiness, nervousness, confusion, tremor, palpitation or a slow heart rate. Turmeric may increase the effects of blood-thinning medication such as warfarin, which could lead to increased risk of bleeding.

Antibiotics or Chemotherapy

Turmeric may decrease the effectiveness of the antibiotics ciprofloxacin and cotrimoxazole, and potentially others. Turmeric may decrease the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drug vinblastine.

…And of course, it is always advisable to talk to your doctor before starting any new health, fitness or supplement program, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions.

 

Conclusion

For most people, turmeric is a safe supplement that acts as a potent anti-inflammatory and can help reduce pain from arthritis or inflamed tissues, as well as reducing degeneration which is driven by chronic inflammation.

Those on blood thinners or diabetic medication should certainly speak to their doctor first before taking it.

But overall turmeric can be considered a much safer, and even more effective alternative to NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication) like diclofenac or ibuprofen, for those wanting to avoid the risks and side effects of those drugs, especially when taken regularly.

Turmeric also confers anti-ageing properties, and can potentially help or prevent a wide range of chronic health problems, which all stem from chronic inflammation.

 

Mike Cassidy-Hogg DC

Chiropractor

Happy-Joints-turmeric
Happy Joints Organic Turmeric with BioPerine.

 

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