Tag Archives: back pain

Exercise improves mood for those with chronic illnesses

Reuters reports patients with chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and back pain improve their mood by working out on a regular basis, according to a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine. Continue reading

Glucosamine sulfate appears to have no effect on chronic low back pain from degenerative lumbar osteoarthritis

I’ve posting a blog on the effectiveness of glucosamine sulfate for osteoarthritis of the knee. In my practice, it’s never seemed to work well for arthritis or degenerative disc disease of the lower back. Now, there’s new data supporting my observation.

On its website, ABC News reported, “Glucosamine has looked like salvation to many people with joint pain,” and “statistics attest to the supplement’s widespread appeal.”

For example, a “2007 federal survey of Americans’ use of complementary and alternative medicine found that more than 6 million adults in the United States had taken glucosamine in the previous month.”

Meanwhile, a “study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published in 2004, found that among women treated at New Mexico hospitals for joint and muscle pain, 25 percent of those with osteoarthritis used glucosamine.”

Nevertheless, there have been mixed study results regarding the effectiveness of the treatment, according to the Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog. “Some studies have shown the supplement to be effective in treating some joint pain, but others show no benefit.” (You can read why in another of my blogs on the topic)

Now, research coming out of Norway reveals “that glucosamine was no different from a placebo in treating lower back pain.”

The study included 250 individuals with “chronic back pain and degenerative lumbar osteoarthritis” who were randomly assigned “1,500 milligrams daily of glucosamine or an inactive placebo,” HealthDay reported .

The “patients’ pain was measured using the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire at 6 weeks, then again at 3, 6 and 12 months,” according to the paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “At the start of the … trial, patients taking glucosamine scored 9.2 on the pain scale while the patients taking placebo scored 9.7.”

Six months later, “the average score in both groups was 5.0,” MedPage Today reported.” At a year, the average score was 4.8 for glucosamine and 5.5 for placebo, but the difference remained nonsignificant.”

What’s more, “between the end of the intervention and the end of follow-up, there was … no significant difference in average disability score, lower back pain at rest and during activity, and quality of life.”

Still, pointed out the author of an accompanying editorial, “no one study settles any question,” WebMD reported.

But the supplement “did no harm,” explained lead author Philip Wilkens. “And some patients who improved while taking the supplement told him they were sure it helped them.”

I still think it’s worth a try. Just be sure to use one of the brands of Glucosamine Sulfate that have been shown to be most helpful. You can find their names here.

Americans spending more on back surgery, but few find relief

The AP reports, “Even though only a fraction of people with back pain are good candidates for surgery, complicated spine operations are on the rise. So is the hunt for any relief.”

According to “one recent estimate, Americans are spending a staggering $86 billion a year in care for aching backs – from MRIs to pain pills to nerve blocks to acupuncture. That research found little evidence that the population got better as the bill soared over the past decade.”

The AP notes, “The reality is that time often is the best antidote. Most people will experience back pain at some point, but up to 90 percent will heal on their own within weeks,” and “for run-of-the-mill cases, doctors aren’t even supposed to do an X-ray or MRI unless the pain lingers for a month to six weeks.”

So, what do I recommend to my back pain patients?

  • Unless there are neurological signs, there’s no reason for X-rays, CTs, or MRIs for six months.
  • Initially try stretching and strengthening exercises, OTC NSAIDs (naproxen or ibuprofen), heat/cold therapy, massage therapy, physical therapy, or chiropractic therapy.
  • If no help, try other meds and/or change therapies.
  • If you’ve still had no help, consider seeing a pain specialist for consideration of one of several types of injection therapies.
  • Keep a visit to the surgeon as the last step. And, if you see someone who recommends surgery, get a second or third opinion.

Dr. Walt’s Take on the Health Headlines – May 28, 2008

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