Spinal stenosis treatment can take many forms, ranging from over-the-counter pain medication to corticosteroid spinal injections. While the general course of physician-prescribed treatments follows a tried-and-true path for all patients, each patient will respond to treatments differently, so the combination of treatments that is deemed successful for one patient may be nothing like the treatments that help another.
There are, however, almost always two common goals when it comes to treating spinal stenosis in the lower back (lumbar spine) and neck (cervical spine): relieve pain and other discomfort associated with spinal nerve compression and avoid the need for surgery.
Standard and Complementary Therapies for Spinal Stenosis
Many patients are able to successfully manage their back and neck discomfort with standard approaches to spinal stenosis treatment such as hot/cold compresses, physical therapy, medication, stretching, and low-impact exercise. However, in some instances patients may have to look beyond standard, nonsurgical treatments and the field of alternative and complementary medicine (CAM) is becoming an increasingly popular place for patients to turn when they are in need of back and neck pain relief.
Risks of Herbal Remedies for Back Pain
Examples of CAM include acupuncture, yoga, massage, and herbal supplements, among others. While it is important to consult with your physician before trying any of these therapies, it is especially important to get a physician’s approval before trying herbal remedies. Unlike pharmaceuticals, which are regulated by federal laws and must adhere to a lengthy list of standards, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require that manufacturers of herbal medicines present evidence of an herbal substance’s safety or efficacy, nor do they have to warn consumers about potential side effects.
Choosing Safe Alternative Back Pain Treatments
If you are considering herbal supplements for spinal stenosis treatment, here are a few tips for doing so safely:
- Do your research – Choose a manufacturer that does not use additives, possible contaminants, or artificial colors. Potency and purity are the two main attributes to look for. Furthermore, keep in mind that the ingredients listed on the labels of herbal supplements are often inaccurate. Look for products that are “USP Verified,” which means the manufacturers have voluntarily asked the U.S. Pharmacopeia to test and verify the ingredients in their products.
- Talk to your physician – Certain herbs are known to have adverse reactions when combined with prescription or over-the-counter medications. Always consult your doctor before mixing medications with natural supplements.
- Be cautious – While herbal remedies are known for having far fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs, it is still important to keep an eye out for allergic reactions or other negative side effects like fatigue or nausea.
In general, don’t rely on claims made by manufacturers of supplements when you are shopping around for the best types of herbal spinal stenosis treatment. Instead, take the research into your own hands – read reviews, evaluate ingredients, talk to your doctor, and focus on how much or how little your back or neck pain improves when trying different supplements.
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