View Full Version : Supplements for back pain

David Heyer
03-26-2005, 04:50 AM
Has anyone ever tried glucosamine or other products for lower back pain? I wake up every day with lower back pain.

Barry Cooper
03-26-2005, 06:26 AM
I personally haven't, but I would look at other things before pills/supplements. Back pain is generally either structural (disk, scoliosis), or muscular (poor posture, muscular imbalance). A bad bed will aggravate muscular imbalances. If you don't have a bad disk or something structural, I would take a pilates class. It really works proper pelvic alignment, and that ensures proper use of the lower back. It gets "dissed" sometimes, but usually, from what I can tell, by people who either haven't done it, or people who have done a watered down version. Especially if you get into using the machines, they really cook your abs.

If that's not an option, I have found hanging leg raises to the bar (all the way up) help with my back. I am prone to lordosis, but my back almost never hurts. Only after long drives, and sleeping on bad beds.

John Messano
03-26-2005, 07:57 AM
May I suggest a gentle and frequent stretch of the hamstrings?

Consider standing forward bends with bent knees, seated forward bends with the focus on keep your belly tight and back straight, that is, not rounding your lower back.

Lincoln Brigham
03-26-2005, 09:09 AM
The cure for back pain is something you do, not something you take. Besides, glucosamine is help cartilage regrowth. Cartilage rarely the cause of low back pain.

David Heyer
03-26-2005, 04:48 PM
Thanks all. The Chiro said that I have a birth defect and a 30% degenerated disk. He told me to stop O'lifting/deadlifting. I tried for a month (took off of crossfit and did bodybuilding), it sucked and my back still hurt. Normally I take no supplements other than fish oil. I was just frustrated this morning! I train hard and also do a lot of yoga, but still the back pain. I tried a pilates tape, but it wasn't very challenging.
The back pain usually drops off slightly with a few dynamic rotation stretches. I assume it is my mattress. Guess I better go get a new one.

Albert Clayton
03-26-2005, 05:22 PM
Birth defect and a 30% degenerated disk, I do not know dude ??? Second opinion maybe in order. I do a lot back arches and it seems to help me. But it sounds like you are doing that already.

David Heyer
03-27-2005, 06:41 AM
I just started seeing a new chiropractor. I told him that I believe the other one was a quack. Funny thing is, a friend of mine was told the exact same thing from this chiro!
I requested the x-rays from the old Dr.'s office, but it never came. I'm probably going to have to either go down in person and get them, or get new ones.


William Hunter
03-28-2005, 08:21 AM
David, your posts concerning your Chiro experiences are very distressing to me (I'm a Chiro). I hate to ever hear health care professionals speak in absolute terms...they rarely exist.

You're in your mid 30's, been stomping around this earth for a while now. You ABSOLUTELY SHOULD have at least a little degeneration in your low back. Outer signs of aging (gray or thinning hair, wrinkles) are normal, and so are internal signs like the disks starting to thin out a little bit. Thinning disks, like wrinkles, are painless in a lot of cases. You can still be quite functional.

I think continuing to O-Lift and DL is a great idea. You said you wake up with back pain...you didn't say your back hurts after lifting. Try a different mattress (think of it this way, you spend a third of your life in bed, so it has great potential to be either good or bad for you).

Try to find a Chiro with advanced training in sports or rehab. Find one that looks like they've seen the inside of a gym in the last decade. If you say "Can I Oly lift?" they should not have to ask for an explanation. I hate to say it, but some build their business using scare tactics.

On a personal note, my L5 disk is WAY more than 30% degenerated (closer to 80%) and functional lifting has been a godsend for me. I rarely feel like I need an adjustment.

Good luck.

Ben Krey
03-28-2005, 12:47 PM
Another Chiro here. What kind of birth defect? It sounds like it may simply be either a transitional segment (used to be called lumbarization of the sacrum or sacralization of the lumbar spine) or a spondylolisthesis. I suppose it could be a congenital hemivertebrae or other sort of congenital anomaly, but I doubt it.

In my opinion, o-lifting coupled with distraction (pullups, etc.) is probably the best thing you can do for disc degeneration of the low back. The disc is adhered to the endplate of the vertebrae above and below (no such thing as a slipped disk) and receives its nutrition via imbibition (passive motion of nutrients and fluids). Since the disc maintains a negative pressure, distraction encourages the reduction of disc bulges and the O-lifting helps with the pumping action-- pushing fluids out to allow fluids and nutrients to enter the disc. This will help juice up the disc like water to a sponge.

Don't ever let someone tell you that a degenerated disc won't ever get better or regenerate... they obviously don't have much experience with crossfit. Over time, however, without proper motion, the disc starts to become more like beef jerky and loses its fluid content (can see it on MRI).

Hopefully your new chiro knows what is up and can help you. I personally have a "birth defect" in my low back with a type 2a trasitional segment (part of my sacrum decided to be a lobsided vertebrae). I do not suffer from low back pain, but I do the WOD (still modified) and yoga on my rest day and get adjusted every wednesday, lol.

I respectfully disagree that you absoutely should have a little degeneration in the low back in your mid 30's... I've seen too many people where this isn't the case. In fact, I had one of my staff take a 2view lumbar xray on me this morning because Dr. Hunter got me curious. I turn 33 this week. Despite the transitional segment, no signs of degeneration so far.

If your low back pain includes radiating symptoms (down the legs) that become worse with increased abdominal pressure (coughing/sneezing/sitting on the pot) and pain with lifting, then you should probably back off for a while-- but still work carefully on range of motion. The main things you worry about are "progressive neurologic signs". Any loss of strength or feeling should not be treated lightly, especially if it is getting worse. If not dealt with, loss of muscle strength can be permanent. Loss of bowel or bladder control should also be considered an emergency.
Hope some of this helps


William Hunter
03-28-2005, 01:27 PM
Great post Ben!

No worries about your disagreement with me. I might have made my point a little stronger than I should have. I should rephrase that one should not be surprised (or too upset) if they discover some degeneration present...it's not a death sentence. I see degeneration present often in patients in their mid 30's. Usually another Chiro or MD made it seem like it was the end of the world and the countdown to lumbar fusion surgery had begun. I find myself talking the patient "off the ledge" so to speak because they're so distressed about their supposedly hopeless situation.

David, keep searching and you will find something or someone who will shoot straight. Ben's last paragraph detailing the clinical "red flags" is a great checklist to go over.

David Heyer
03-28-2005, 04:50 PM
Great posts DOC's.

I have moved on from that chiro to a far better one. He has a much better understanding of athletics/weight-training. He takes far more time with me, and is much more hands on.
As far as the other chiro, I took everything he said with a grain of salt.


Donald Woodson
03-29-2005, 06:12 AM
I'm just SOOoo glad chiro's exist! Mine saved me from that lumbar fusion surgery the MD's were ready to do on me a couple years ago. If it wasn't for him, I'm absolutely positive I'd be a fat, sedentary veggie by now.
I have Scoliosis and a degenerated disc. I haven't had to see my chiro for a couple years now, and I attribute that directly to Crossfit, and specifically, deadlifts, situps, and hanging leg raises, db swings etc. (and a much better mattress). Another thing which I think might help is what I call body weight traction. I jump up on my dip bars, and just hang my legs down, concentrating on relaxing the pressure from my discs (in an effort to apply suction to said discs to draw in moisture). I do this several times a day at work and at home. I couldn't say whether my discs have actually "regenerated" at all, but I haven't had any back pain at all for a while now. Of course my chiro would want me to continue my adjustments, but I just haven't felt the need.
Dave Werner, who has a really bad back, convinced me that avoiding deadlifts wasn't going to fix my back, and that the secret to a pain free back is developing my core strength, making my ab and back muscles do the work of supporting me, instead of my discs. He was right.
I haven't tried the Glucosamine.

William Hunter
03-29-2005, 09:42 AM
You know, this thread started with a Glucosamine question. I get asked about it a lot, and I paraphrase what a nutritional consultant told me about it:

Glucosamine is a building block of healthy cartilage. Many people have cartilage that is breaking down, but only in some of those cases is it due to a deficiency of normal Glu production. It's like owning a watch factory. Each watch has a hundred little parts; you've got everything except for one little spring. The end result is watches that are 99.9% completed are stacking up because they're useless. Then you get a shipment of the springs and bingo, you're turning out watches at an alarming rate. So, if you're not producing cartilage due to a deficiency of Glu, and you take some, you'll get great results within a couple of weeks. If nothing happens, Glucosamine deficiency was not the problem.

Bottom line, I tell people to try it for a few weeks and if they don't feel better, discontinue.

Brian Hand
03-29-2005, 01:23 PM
David, I thought this was a pretty good article on glucosamine:


I take this stuff all the time hoping to prevent or slow down the inevitable degeneration of the joints from exercise, contact sports, all the usual wear and tear. It's cheap and side effects are not likely.

You got a ton of expert advice already, I'll just add a simple suggestion: put a physio ball in your bedroom. (Get your mind out of the gutter please :-) ) Stretch on the ball first thing in the morning, just lie face down on it and let your spine stretch. It seems to take a couple minutes to really relax. If you want, you might try doing some reverse hyperextentions with the ball too. This exercise really seems to produce that pumping effect Ben talked about, but the motion is supported by the ball, so you can do it even when you're too tender to do most low back exercises pain free. Just a suggestion but it has worked well for more than a few people.

Michael Keller
04-02-2005, 07:18 PM
I've got two degenerative discs in my low back, and at Dave's urging began doing the DL's. My back is continually getting stronger and I'm now in a job where I stand/walk a lot, with no pain! Before, standing for 10-15 minutes would send pain shooting down the sciatic nerve into my right leg, but I've almost forgot what that is like. Do the DL's and stretch a lot. I also bought an inversion table a couple of years ago, and it helps a lot when you are in pain by stretching out the vertebrae and allowing the spine to decompress. It was money very well spent.

I would like to here more from Ben about discs regenerating. I've never heard that before--is it possible?

Veronica Carpenter
04-02-2005, 08:08 PM
Michael, nice testimonial on how to fix what's broken by strengthening it. It's too bad many physicians will still tell you to stop lifting and "take a couple Advil and call me in the morning." I make a point on never calling them again.

Michael Keller
04-03-2005, 03:57 PM
Thanks Veronica.

Most docs only want to cut on you, and that is something I won't do unless it gets to the point where I am pretty much unable to move without it. I don't think that's going to happen. I went the chiro/strengthening route, and so far it's working well.

Garry Berryhill
04-04-2005, 03:56 PM
Wish I'd read Ben's post before hitting the weight room. I have a pinched sciatic nerve. Felt great after my second adjustment (this afternoon), dove right into lifting and I'm back where I started. I'm a stupid, stupid joke of a man.

Ben Krey
04-04-2005, 06:51 PM
I promise I didn't mean to hijack this thread. As far as Glucosamine is concerned, I do take it as a supplement, but not so much as a treatment for back pain, but a building block for cartilage growth. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are substances found naturally in the body. Glucosamine is a form of amino sugar that is believed to play a role in cartilage formation and repair. Chondroitin sulfate is part of a large protein molecule (proteoglycan) that gives cartilage elasticity.

Lets face it though, you are basically chewing on crab shells and cow cartilage.

But as far as the regeneration of discs is concerned, Michael... it is absolutely possible, just not the norm for discs to regenerate, so many doctors tell people that you can never improve it, only slow the progression. The same thing goes for osteoporosis. In many doctor's lifetimes, they never see these things improve... only degenerate more... since it doesn't improve, they don't want to give people false hope... or I should say, don't want people to set their expectations too high. Their experience, however, doesn't apply to you-- especially if you are dedicated enough to be into crossfit. Having said this, age is a factor.

The disc --like cartilage elsewhere-- is made up of water, cells (chondrocytelike and fibroblasts), proteoglycan aggregates and type I (typical in tendons) and type II (typical for articular cartilage) collagen fibers. The proteoglycan aggregates are composed of many proteoglycan monomers attached to a hyaluronic acid core. Breakdown of the proteoglycan aggregates and monomers (which happens more rapidly after the age of 30) is thought to contribute to disc degeneration.

"The cartilaginous IVD is a dynamic structure that has been shown to be able to repair itself and is capable of considerable regeneration (Humzah & Soames, 1988; Mendel et al., 1992; Nitobe et al., 1988)."

From a chiropractor's standpoint, though, the disc is just one of the factors in having a healthy, balanced spine... a much greater emphasis is given to the way the spine relates to the central, peripheral and autonomic nervous systems.

/gets off soap box

Frank C Ollis
04-11-2005, 11:48 AM
I have a 17% curvature of the spine from Scoliosis. I had a Chiropractor tell me to stretch and do Dorsals/supermans everyday when I was a teenager. I still do them 15 years later. I am totally functional and my back only hurts when I am stupid with my training.

Michael Keller
04-14-2005, 06:59 PM
Ben, thanks for your insightful reply. I haven't been on the board in a while due to work and just read it. Nice to know there is hope, even if it's slim!