THE BLOG
10/13/2014 12:03 pm ET Updated Dec 13, 2014

5 Myths About Supplements for Back Pain

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Nutritional supplements are growing in popularity as a way to promote spine health and solve a vast array of medical ailments. The problem is, there is limited evidence and data to prove the effectiveness of many supplements.

Before beginning any treatment plan, including the use of supplements, you should be informed about the facts. Let's examine some common myths and misconceptions about supplements for back pain and spine health.

Myth #1 -- Supplements are generally safe, so there is no need to review them with my doctor before taking them.

Just as certain prescription drugs can produce adverse reactions when mixed with other drugs, supplements can also react with your medications. You should always consult with your doctor before taking anything new, including supplements. Likewise, you should also inform your doctor of any medications and supplements you are currently taking. Ask if she would take them or recommend these to her patients

Myth #2 -- The bottle says it's "natural," so it won't do any harm.

Natural doesn't always mean safe! While a supplement may be derived from a natural source, it doesn't necessarily mean it's safe for you to take. Many prescription drugs also come from natural sources as well, but they can still interact with your current medications and treatment plan. This is why it is important to stress that you consult with a doctor and do some research to inform yourself about any supplement, before starting it.

Myth #3 -- Supplements are regulated by the FDA, so they must be effective.

The FDA does regulate some, but not all, supplements. However, they are not regulated in the same way that drugs are. Supplements fall under the "foods" category rather than the "drug" category, so the regulatory requirements are different. Specifically, manufacturers are not required to prove the safety and effectiveness of supplements before making them available to consumers, unlike drug manufacturers, who must prove the safety and effectiveness of a drug before it can be put on the market. While supplement manufacturers and distributors are required to investigate any claims of adverse effects and report their findings to the FDA, it is ultimately the FDA's responsibility to prove that a supplement is unsafe before it can take any action. The only exceptions are if the supplement contains a "new dietary ingredient" not previously sold in the U.S., or if the supplement contains an illegal substance that is known to be unsafe or ineffective. For more information about the FDA regulations, click on this link: http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/UsingDietarySupplements/ucm110567.htm.

Myth #4 -- Supplements can take the place of healthy eating.

Unfortunately, it's not that easy -- you still need to eat your vegetables. It's better to get the nutrients you need through the natural foods you eat rather than a pill. They are called supplements for a reason -- they are meant to enhance a healthy lifestyle, not replace it.

Myth #5 -- I should be taking glucosamine and chondroitin supplements to help with osteoarthritis in the back.

Glucosamine and chondroitin has been shown to be effective in some studies, but peer-reviewed literature does not consistently support its use for back pain relief. Some people take these supplements alongside other nonsurgical treatments. However, if you are taking a blood thinner daily (such as coumadin), you should use caution when taking glucosamine and chondroitin, as it can contribute to bleeding. You should also avoid these supplements if you are pregnant or nursing. Click on this link from NIH for more information: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/glucosaminechondroitin.

When researching supplements to help with back pain, always be sure that you are getting your information from legitimate and verified sources. While the Internet can provide a great deal of information, there is a lot of false information out there.

Learn more on Dr. Gleiber's Blog http://www.michaelgleibermd.com/blog.html

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