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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Will glucosamine help my arthritic low back and relieve back pain?

"Hello Gary, I have just come across your website and I must say its bloody fantastic. I am an age group triathlete (41year female) who last year had diskectomy surgery on my lower back and am now suffering from painful degeneration that has caused me to cut my running right down (replacing with crazy fast walking) and I am finding the swimming painful too.

I have just started taking Glucosamine tablets and am trying hard to not take as many panadol as I am sure it cant be good for me. My goal is to NOT go and have fusion surgery but to still be able to race and train comfortably for as long as I can. I was interested in your u tube piece on the various joint supplements but am now a bit confused as to what I should be taking can you help. I have also been reading many online articles about it and some say its not been proven to work and some say its fantastic, what is your opinion?"
Gary Moller comments:
I have been assisting people with low back pain for more years than I care to think about! In many cases, if not most, the pain suffered has only a passing association with the degree of degeneration of the spinal discs. Let me explain what may be going on and why further surgery is a poor option that should only be exercised as an absolute last resort:

OK, you injure your back, irritate it, stir it up for some reason. The immediate protective response is for the muscles about the spine, including the butt, to lock up in spasm. This is a natural casting effect to immobilise the spine while the damage is repaired. Unfortunately, the longer this spasm goes on the greater the possibility of secondary problems developing - chronic muscle weakness, hard gristle and permanent spasm.

When muscles are in spasm, there is little blood flow through them. In order to survive the cells switch to anaerobic mode to cope with the low oxygen environment. This causes a buildup further of toxins in the area which becomes swollen and painful. The toxins cause more spasm, thus setting up a vicious cycle of pain and inflammation that continues well after the original injury has healed (99% of healing is complete within 12 weeks. Exercise may make the pain worse as will sitting and standing without moving. Even sleep may be a problem.

The spine does not like a lack of normal movement and there will be an acceleration of degeneration as a consequence. Not a good look all round!

Let me give an overview of how I help people get over their back pain.
The first step in getting a full recovery is to try to identify any areas of nutritional deficiency because it is a waste of time trying to reduce inflammation, strengthen and mobilise if there is a nutrient deficiency. Exercise will just make the person worse. Each person is different.
A person might be deficient in some key minerals. A low fat diet may cause fat soluble vitamin deficiency, the person may be slightly anaemic, etc. Many nutritional factors can contribute to ongoing pain and poor response to exercise. Once these are being dealt with I then introduce deep tissue massage about a week later.

This special form of massage can be most unpleasant initially. It is applied to break muscle spasm and to soften hardened gristle and to shift out metabolic toxins of which there can be several liters.

Gentle stretching can be introduced as can gentle exercise. For guidance about safe exercise for a dodgy spine, there is my book about Back Pain.

Where we go from there depends very much on the person.

Yes! Most definitely. It works in most cases when taken in accordance with directions of the manufacturer and for at least 3 months. Your spine is a series of fibrous joints and the same principles of joint nutrition for other joints apply. Chondroitin is most important for the spine since it hydrates discs that tend to dry with age and lack of movement. Add MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) which has a natural anti inflammation effect and builds strong collagen (double-click any words for their meaning). There are other important ingredients for joint health, such as vitamin C. The joint care powders that I favour have these added.

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