Most of our clients are extremely health conscious and HATE to take pain killers. They will look for alternatives to prescription medication whenever they can, knowing that natural methods are often as effective and less harmful than the drugs handed out by their doctor. Today, we are going to talk about a “super-food” supplement with some interesting research to suggest that it may be MORE effective for back pain, disc bulges and sciatica than prescription medication.
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Important: Never discontinue the use of your pain killers without express permission from your GP first. The information in this article is not to be taken as medical advice or a prescription of any kind. It is provided for informational purposes only.
What’s the Problem with Pain Killers?
While pain killers do undoubtedly help some get relief from back pain and sciatica, they also come with a host of problems.
For a start, opioid pain killers (like codeine and Oramorph) can be addictive and put stress on the liver during their transit through the body.
Another of the most commonly prescribed families of medication for sciatica are anti-inflammatories. These include drugs like ibuprofen, Naproxen and Diclofenac. However, these drugs are known to cause potentially serious adverse effects, including stomach ulcers, gastric bleeding, heart attacks and even death.
What’s more, the people we help who suffer from back pain and sciatica are often sick to death of popping pills that make them feel awful.
Long-term use of pain killers has a psychological effect as well as a physical one, and people get in contact with us all the time asking us to help them get off pain killers once and for all.
So, What Supplement Might Be a Better Alternative?
There is research to suggest that Omega-3 Fish Oils containing essential fatty acids may be as effective as traditional anti-inflammatory medication for back pain caused by disc bulges and degeneration, according to the journal Surgical Neurology.
It has been shown that Omega-3 supplements (particularly those with a high DHA and EPA concentration) have the potential to reduce the inflammatory response within the body. If you’ve read my work on inflammation in sciatica and why it’s so important that we control it, then you’ll know that doing everything we can to limit inflammation around an affected nerve root is paramount for treatment success.
What Did the Research Say?
The paper was published by two neurosurgeons who opted to recommend high doses of Omega-3 fish oil supplements as an alternative to traditional anti-inflammatories in their patients who complained of back or neck pain caused by a disc problem.
The researchers recommended that the participants in their study consumed 1200mg of Omega-3 fish oil per day. As most Omega-3 supplements come in 300mg capsules, this is the equivalent of around 4 capsules (always check the label) from most brands.
The results were measured after an average of 75 days and were very interesting:
- 59% of individuals had decided to stop taking their prescription pain medications because their symptoms had reduced so much
- 60% stated that their overall pain had significantly improved
- 80% of people in the study said that they were satisfied with the results they had seen
- 88% of people in the study said that they would continue to take the Omega-3 fish oil supplement.
- Perhaps most importantly – no subjects reported any adverse effects as a result of the Omega-3 supplement.
When you compare the results of this study to those of the usual pain killer trials, there are usually multiple adverse effects reported and less of a positive effect observed.
In my humble opinion, I would seriously consider Omega-3 as one of the most important supplements for people with sciatica – as well as the general population – partly because of the positive effects it can bring and partly because most of us fail to consume enough Omega-3 as part of our normal diets.
You can hear about some of the other great effects of Omega-3 by watching the video below:
How to Get More Omega-3 Into Your Diet
You’ll probably have realised by now that everything we do to and put into our bodies can either hinder us or help us recover from an injury.
It is a good idea to be aware of foods that contain high levels of Omega-3, as most of the foods containing Omega-3 are also beneficial to the body in other ways too.
- Oily fish – not surprisingly, oily fish contain a high concentration of Omega-3. Fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines are full of Omega-3, but you can still get some of this nutrient in white fish too.
- Nuts – walnuts, cashew nuts and almonds all contain high levels of Omega-3.
- Green leafy vegetables – packed with vitamins and minerals, green leafy veg is an essential part of any diet.
How to Choose a Great Omega-3 Supplement
It is possible to consume enough Omega-3 in your diet to have the desired effect of pain relief along with other benefits, such as improved energy levels and joint health.
However, for most people, an Omega-3 supplement is an easy and convenient way to include more of this powerful super-nutrient in your diet.
The British Dietician’s Association recommends looking for supplements that explicitly state “Omega-3” rather than “Cod Liver Oil”.
They also recommend that the general population limits their Vitamin A content to below 1500ug/day. Check the label of your supplements and consult a dietician for advice on how to maintain this guideline.
Below is the Omega-3 supplement that I personally use and recommend, and the one I have found to be most effective (with no fishy aftertaste!)
See this supplement on Amazon UK
See this supplement on Amazon USA
Although more expensive than many of the high-street or supermarket brands, this Omega-3 supplement from Nordic Naturals is sourced in a much cleaner way than many other, making it more effective. These represent superb value for money and are higher quality than the general supermarket-own brand. These supplements are specially filtered to ensure there are no impurities, unlike in some cheaper brands.
I personally use these Omega-3 tablets and have never had any problems with a fishy aftertaste.
What Else Can I Use for Sciatica Pain Relief?
Omega-3 supplementation isn’t the only dietary change you can make that may have a positive effect on your sciatica symptoms!
Many of my patients with sciatica find that a TENS machine can help to relieve their symptoms, when used alongside exercises, lifestyle modifications and supplements for sciatica.
A TENS machine works by sending a small electrical signal into the muscles of the back, providing pain relief in many cases and loosening tight muscles.
Here is an example of a TENS machine that I commonly recommend to my clients:
You can also find an entire post I wrote showing you the best TENS machines on the market at the moment by clicking HERE.
Creams for sciatica pain can help some people to experience relief and they are handy to carry around to use when walking, if the exercises can’t shift the pain.
Here is the cream that we recommend for people with sciatica:
Are You Looking for RAPID Relief from Sciatica?
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Finally, Try to Improve Your General Health
If you’re struggling with your mobility due to sciatica, one thing that might help is to address other general health issues like your weight, your diet and your general exercise.
If you’d like some tips on how to improve all of those aspects of your health, stave off injury and treat problems like arthritis, why not grab a copy of my brand new book, Thriving Beyond Fifty? You can see more details below:
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I hope you found this information and the reflection on the research study as interesting as I did! What are your experiences with Omega-3 supplements? Have you tried them before? Let us know in the comments section below!
1 thought on “The Supplement That May Be Better Than Pain Killers for Sciatica”
Sorry to hear about your conditions. Omega-3 is a good supplement for most people, regardless of whether it helps them with their pain. It will also help with heart health and bone strength. Hope things improve for you soon!