Homeopathic Remedies for Degenerative Disc Disease
By Heather Caruso B.Sc., DHMS, HD
The term degenerative disc disease refers to the changes in the discs which is the cushioning between the vertebrae in the spine. Normally the space between the vertebrae contains spinal discs which are soft and compressible that allow the spine to bend and flex. Degenerative disc disease (DDD) refers to a breakdown of these discs which usually happens in the lower (lumbar) or the neck (cervical) region of the spine. These discs may lose some of fluid which can cause less cushioning between the vertebrae. Tears may occur that cause the disc to bulge or encroach on surrounding tissues causing great pain. As the space in between vertebrae get smaller, it can cause the body to produce some bony growths called osteophytes. These osteophytes cause more pain and inflammation in the surrounding tissues of the spine. The changes in discs may cause spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis and/or a herniated disc.
Sometimes the cause of DDD is unknown, but it can be linked to normal aging, injuries and heavy physical labor including lifting. Some researchers have found that improper blood supply is linked to DDD. Medical treatments for DDD may be symptomatic pain relief using anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy and in severe cases surgery. Natural supplements are excellent for relieving pain caused by DDD without the typical side effects that pharmaceutical pain killers do. Luckily homeopathic medicines are suited to the unique symptoms of DDD so the remedies are based on someone’s unique symptom picture.
Mother tinctures are herbal preparations that are often used in homeopathic prescribing. They are herbal remedies so they may have side effects as opposed to homeopathic remedies. However, if prescribed properly they have minimal side effects compared to prescription drugs. Some mother tinctures used in DDD for pain or support are as follows:
White Willow Bark or Salix Alba, has been compared to conventional treatments for low back pain, such as cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors (COX-2). Willow bark contains a compound that is used in aspirin however, willow bark does not have the side effects that aspirin has. Willow bark has been used in headaches, migraines, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, low back pain and toothaches for pain relief. It has analgesic compounds that help with pain but it does not reverse any of the damage from osteoarthritis or DDD.
Curcuma Longa (turmeric) has anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties for those with osteoarthritis. This spice is used in Asian cooking and gives food a yellowish color. It has numerous studies on its health benefits such as being beneficial as an anticancer, antioxidant, cholesterol lowering agent, analgesic and for nerve pains. Some people take it as a tea with black pepper to increase its potency. A few interesting studies have confirmed that curcumin reduces inflammatory markers, reduces the activity of a protein that causes collagen to break down and inflammation.
Boswelia serrata is an ancient herb used in Ayurvedic healing. It has potent anti-inflammatory, antiarthritic and pain relieving properties. Boswelia actually has been studied and found to reduce hormonal triggers for inflammation that causes pain in arthritis and DDD. It helps to stimulate the growth of cartilage, increase blood supply to inflamed areas and repairs local blood vessels damaged by inflammation. This is a top notch remedy for DDD.
Devil’s Claw otherwise known as Harpagophytum procumbens has traditionally been used as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever for joint diseases, back pain, and headache. There are several human studies that support the use of devil’s claw for the treatment of low back pain but it is not clear how devil’s claw works. Studies show a mild improvement with its use in back pain and more so benefit in knee and hip arthritis. This drug may help one reduce the use of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Passiflora Incarnata is useful for sleeplessness due to pain. It is useful for relaxing and the symptoms of anxiety. In homeopathic literature this mother tincture can be used to help break a morphine habit.
Homeopathy is a medicine that is suited to one’s unique symptom picture, so two people suffering with symptoms of DDD may require different remedies according to their symptoms. Homeopathic medicine in a potency higher than 6CH does not carry any side effects. There are many remedies for symptoms of DDD but here are a few that are most commonly indicated:
Aesculus hipp is a remedy that is suited to the symptoms of severe, dull aching in the lumbar spine and sacrum. Walking is nearly impossible and these types may take a few tries to get up from any seat. They feel worse from movement. They feel weakness and lameness in the small of the back and need to sit down for relief.
Argentum Met types have a bruised sensation in the small of the back, loins and the neck. They feel worse in the morning on waking, from motion. These types have a deep violent pain as if sprained in the low back. The left thigh tends pain unbearable when the leg is lifted outwards and this pain compels him/her to limp.
Bryonia pains are of a stiff character in the lower back and feel worse with any movement, standing, or bending. They feel worse from cold weather and better with rubbing, heat and resting completely still. These types can be irritable and crusty due to pain and want to be left alone.
Calcarea Fluor is a remedy that is useful in DDD where there are osteophytes (bony growths) that develop. The back feels tired, aching and stiff. These types feel worse for first motion, drafts and coldness and are better for warmth and motion.
Cimicifuga is a remedy that has degenerative discs particularly in the cervical (neck) vertebrae. These types may have radiating pain down to their left arm, and the neck may be frozen to one side. The neck and upper back suffers from spasms and stiffness. They feel worse from cold, drafts, motion and touch and better for warmth and pressure.
Nux Vomica cramps in low back from sitting in a sedentary job, constipation, chilly and irritable. Better warmth and worse for cold applications.
Ruta Grav is a remedy for chronic low back pain that is severe in the small of the back. These pains may feel from within outwards as if it is bruised. The pains may be worse after standing and sitting and bending over or walking. The pain feels worse on the first motion and better on continued motion and lying on the back.
As you can see homeopathic medicine is very individualized and two people may get different remedies depending on their unique symptom picture. In an ideal world, everyone would have access to a homeopath and a medical doctor that can work together this way the patient can have the best of both worlds.
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