Monday, February 15, 2010


One of the most common chronic pain conditions is back pain, which affects an estimated 36 million Americans. It is the price we pay for being an upright species. Fortunately, it is also very treatable.

Common Causes

Muscle and ligament strain

Muscle and ligament strain or weakness is the most common cause. This is so even if your back X-ray or MRI is abnormal (as an upright species, most everyone shows normal wear and tear on X-ray). This may be associated with the spine getting pulled out of position (e.g., scoliosis and subluxations).

Spine arthritis

This is common and ignored by most physicians and even some chiropractors. See Arthritis.

Disc disease

This is the only cause that most physicians are taught to treat (by surgery) and is all most think of. If you have weakness/decreased function in a foot (or rarely hand) from disc disease or spine narrowing, surgery is reasonable. Otherwise, in most cases, conservative measures are preferred.


This includes your body and your environment — uneven hip heights or shoulder heights, no wrist or arm rests on your work area chair, carrying a wallet in your back pocket, etc.


In most cases of back pain, there is a mix of causes occurring. Because of this, it is reasonable to do the below in combination.

Lifestyle Advice

  • If it hurts, don't do it
  • Lift from the waist
  • Stretch and do Yoga
  • Use hot compresses, hot baths, massage
  • Sleep on a medium firm mattress instead of a firm mattress (as feels best to you)

Manipulation & Physical Therapy

Chiropractors & osteopaths

Get chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation — these are much more effective than you'd receive from most M.D.s.

Massage and body work

There are many excellent types.

Physical therapists

Find one familiar with Dr. Travell's "trigger point" and "Spray and Stretch" techniques (most are not).


These benign injections into muscles/ligament areas around the spine can strengthen them and be very helpful for chronic pain (see reference link below).

Recommended Supplements

Use the following together for 6 weeks to see the full effect (though benefits are often seen in 1 week or earlier). They can then be used as needed (continue the multi-nutrient powderlong term). They can be added to back pain medications.

Multi-nutrient powder

Take a good multi-nutrient powdereach day.

Glucosamine sulfate

Glucosamine sulfate 750 mg twice a day.


MSM 2,500-3,000 mg a day.

Anti-inflammatory herbal mix

2 tablets 3x day of willow bark, boswellia and cherry.


The foloowing 3 can be used together.

Lidoderm patches

Lidoderm patches (basically novocaine in a skin patch) is very safe and helpful.


Skelaxin is a good, non-sedating muscle relaxant.


Ultracet for pain (may be addictive, but uncommon).


Mind-body approaches developed by Dr. John Sarno can also be helpful. For more info, see Dr. Sarno's current book The Divided Mind and his classicHealing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection (see reference links below).

Also see the book Pain Free 1-2-3.

Many other treatments can help and surgery is usually NOT needed for back pain relief.

More Information Online

Articles at


Other online resources

The Divided Mind (book at

Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection (book at

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