How Effective Are Herbal Remedies for Treating Low-Back Pain?
Low-back pain (LBP) is considered a major public health problem accounting for millions of doctor visits and lost workdays. In the U.S., the direct and indirect costs associated with LBP and its related disability is in the billions.1 With prevalence increasing, the search for effective treatment continues to be a priority; however, there is widespread professional uncertainty about how to effectively treat patients with LBP. Clinical guidelines for LBP contain several interventions, although few have sufficient evidence to show benefit; exercise therapy, behavioral therapy, and short-term analgesic use appear to be somewhat effective for chronic LBP management. Interest in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) also continues to grow and many herbal products have been reported to help with various types of pain. Back pain is one of the five most common conditions associated with CAM use; between 16.8% and 57.2% of patients with back problems have reported seeking CAM treatments.2
In a recent study published in The Cochrane Library, researchers sought to determine how effective herbal remedies are for LBP when compared to placebo, no intervention, or other interventions. Fourteen clinical trials involving 2,050 patients with non-specific acute or chronic LBP were included in the review.3 The six herbal products tested were: Harpagophytum procumbens (devil's claw), Salix alba (white willow bark), Capsicum frutescens (cayenne), Symphytum officinale L. (comfrey), Solidago chilensis (Brazilian arnica), and lavender.