Lower back pain is rife in the UK, with almost two out of three people experiencing it at some point during their lifetime. The symptoms and pain levels vary from person to person. Some people find the pain extends to the buttock or down one leg, for example, explains Bupa.
As the health body explains, the cause isn’t normally serious and most of the time the pain improves within four to six weeks.
If you are finding the pain is persisting, despite attempts to alleviate it, a natural solution may help.
A study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found an ointment containing an extract of comfrey made pain all but disappear within five days.
Comfrey is a shrub that grows in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America.
The root and leaves of the comfrey plant have been used in traditional medicine in many parts of the world.
To assess whether there was any truth to these claims, researchers studied 120 people with upper or lower back pain.
Half were given a comfrey ointment to rub on three times a day for five days, while the others received a dummy ointment. Neither group was told which they were using.
After five days, the amount of pain suffered by those using the dummy ointment had fallen by an average of 39 percent, which researchers put down to them wanting to believe they were getting better.
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But those treated with the comfrey ointment reported a fall of 95 percent.
Comfrey was also fast acting, getting to work after just an hour.
In their concluding remarks, the academics at the German Sport University in Cologne who conducted the study said: “Comfrey root extract showed a remarkably potent and clinically-relevant effect in reducing acute pain.”
The findings are not entirely surprising because the herb has been shown to provide pain relief in previous studies.
For example, a research review published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine found some evidence that comfrey can help heal abrasion wounds.
The authors noted that topical applications of comfrey appear to be safe, but more research is necessary to learn about the potential risks and side effects of using comfrey on your skin and wounds.
According to the same research review, results also suggested that comfrey can help treat osteoarthritis, as well as some injuries, such as ankle sprains.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, affecting nearly nine million people.
General tips to alleviate back pain
According to the NHS, one of the most important things you can do is to keep moving and continue with your normal activities as much as possible.
“It used to be thought that bed rest would help you recover from a bad back, but it’s now known that people who remain active are likely to recover quicker,” explains the health body.
It adds: “Simple back exercises and stretches can often help reduce back pain. These can be done at home as often as you need to.”
According to Versus Arthritis, your pain should ease within two weeks and you should recover over approximately a four to six week period after engaging in back exercises.
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