Anti-Inflammatory Treatments for Back Pain


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Chronic back pain is often difficult to treat, and people who suffer from it will search high and low for relief. Here are a few anti-inflammatory options for back pain to try out.

Anti-Inflammatory Treatments for Back Pain

OTC Anti-Inflammatories

Most people start treating their back pain by reaching for some non-prescription pain pills. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications that are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin actually work really well for pain that is caused by inflammation, swelling, or injury. Doctors often recommend these medications as the best pharmaceutical option for pain.

They are especially good for conditions like sports-related injuries, arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, degenerative disc disease, radiculopathy, spondylolisthesis, stenosis, or for herniated disc(s). Especially in the acute phase of injury, NSAIDS can be incredibly useful in treating swelling and pain, especially when combined with cold or heat therapy and physical therapy of some sort.

Unfortunately, these medicines can cause GI upset, and in extreme cases, even lead to ulcers in the GI tract, or bleeding from the GI tract. These medications, especially aspirin and ibuprofen, can cause significant thinning of the blood. If you have a history of GI bleeding, ulcerations or similar problems in the GI tract, (IBS, Chrone’s Disease, peptic ulcers, GERD) taking NSAIDs should be monitored by a physician at the very least. In most cases, a history of GI bleeding is a contraindication to taking NSAIDs.

Dietary Anti-Inflammatories

There are foods and supplements that can act as an anti-inflammatory when the body responds to trauma or infection by releasing body chemicals that trigger an immune response. This chronic release of inflammatory chemicals in the body isn’t usually good for overall health. Therefore, eating an anti-inflammatory diet is useful in combating this unhealthy state.

Chronic inflammation is often triggered by stress and poor dietary choices. Diseases that might be related to chronic inflammation include:

  • Cancers
  • Cardiac problems
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • IBS
  • Asthma

Food choices that help fight chronic inflammation include:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: found in oily fish like albacore tuna, salmon, and sardines, as well as flaxseed and supplements
  • Omega-6 Fatty Acids: found in red meat and dairy products (as well as supplements), this fatty acid may be particularly good at preventing breast cancer, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Turmeric: a substance in turmeric called “curcumin” has been shown in some studies to combat inflammatory proteins called “cytokines”
  • Ginger: one 2005 study found dietary ginger to be even more effective of an anti-inflammatory than some NSAID medications

Topical Anti-Inflammatories

There are some creams and ointments out there that can offer relief for those who suffer pain from arthritis or other inflammatory processes like sprains or muscle strains. This might be a better choice for some people who have problems that make oral NSAIDs a poor choice for them (like GI bleeding or other health problems that are exacerbated by NSAIDs). Here are a few to try if you are suffering from a painful issue:

  • NSAID topical cream or ointment: There are many ointments out there for use in problems like arthritis that contain common NSAID medications. Aspercreme is one of the oldest on the market and contains salicylates (aspirin). There are other creams, gels, gel patches, ointments, sprays, and foams that contain NSAIDs like ibuprofen, diclofenac, ketoprofen, felbinac, and piroxicam to serve the same purpose.
  • CBD or Cannabidiol topical cream or ointment: these topical preparations are newer to the market, but have been found to be beneficial for inflammatory pain in several studies. The interest in these has been pretty widespread as products of all sorts that contain various cannabinoids become available (some containing THC, and some that do not contain any THC). They work by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors we all have in our bodies and are capable of squelching pain in varying degrees.
  • Ice or cold packs: the most basic anti-inflammatory to apply topically is ice or cold packs. If your injury is recent, (within 48 hours of the injury) application of cold to the site of injury can markedly improve the speed of healing, as well as improve pain. This might seem like an obvious thing to do, but many people inexplicably overlook this after becoming injured, even though it is very beneficial and essentially free. Make sure to grab a cold pack or bag of ice right away if you twist an ankle, or get a painful, swollen, lump caused by minor trauma.


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