Best supplements for back pain: Willow bark extract shown to provide pain relief

Fitness & Health:

Lower back pain will afflict almost two out of three people in their lifetime. As Bupa explains, the cause isn’t normally serious and most of the time the pain improves within four to six weeks. But for some people, it can continue for months or even years.

Scores are recorded by making a handwritten mark on a 10-cm line that represents a continuum between “no pain” and “worst pain.”

They were randomly assigned to receive an oral willow bark extract with either 120 mg (low dose) or 240 mg (high dose) of salicin, or placebo, with tramadol (a strong painkiller) as the sole rescue medication, in a four-week blinded trial.

Salicin is the active ingredient in willow bark that is thought to be responsible for its pain-relieving effect.


To gauge the effectiveness of willow bark extract, researchers assessed the proportion of patients who were pain-free without tramadol for at least five days during the final week of the study.

“Doctors used to advise bed rest, but now we know this can make back pain worse,” warns Bupa.

“You may want to try applying heat or cold treatments to your back. Don’t put ice directly on your skin,” advises the health body.

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If you sleep on your side, you may find it helps to sleep with a small cushion between your knees, it adds.

Other key tips include:

  • Stay active and continue your daily activities as normally as you can
  • Take care when lifting – avoid bending or twisting your back
  • If you need pain relief, take over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) – for example, ibuprofen. You should only take these medicines for a short time, not for long-term back pain.

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