Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) treats back pain naturally: Research

Saturday, August 10, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: alpha lipoic acid, back pain, natural treatment

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(NaturalNews) If you suffer from chronic lower back pain, there is hope beyond a life of just taking pharmaceutical painkillers all the time to cope with the agony. The all-natural antioxidant compound alpha lipoic acid, also known as ALA, has been shown in a limited subset of trials to help alleviate certain types of chronic lower back pain and restore quality of life, all without causing harmful side effects.

A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, for instance, provides some of the earliest evidence of the potential benefits of ALA in treating nerve damage-related lower back pain. Researchers from Aldo Moro University (AMU) in Italy found that supplementation with ALA in combination with both gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid, and physical rehabilitation helped alleviate symptoms of radicular neuropathy and restore normal function.

After just six weeks of supplementing with 600 milligrams (mg) per day of ALA, in conjunction with 360 mg of GLA and regular exercise-based rehab, patients noticed significant improvements in their paresthesia symptoms, with far fewer sensations of burning and tingling on the skin. This same group reported drastic improvements in quality of life compared to another group treated only with exercise-based rehab.

"Oral treatment with alpha lipoic acid (ALA) and gamma linolenic acid (GLA) for six weeks in synergy with rehabilitation therapy improved neuropathic symptoms and deficits in patients with radicular neuropathy," reported the authors from AMU's Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Unit and Neurological and Psychiatric Sciences Departments.

ALA also shown to help treat general lower back pain

More recently, another study on ALA out of the University of Siena, also in Italy, found that the nutrient can help treat general lower back pain symptoms, regardless of their cause. A group of outpatients with varying lower back pain symptoms lasting longer than 12 weeks were given daily doses of ALA with much success.

Somewhat similar to the earlier study, outpatients in this study were given a 60-day regimen of ALA at doses of 600 mg/day, in combination with doses of 140 international units (IU) per day of superoxide dismutase (SOD), a powerful antioxidant enzyme. Together, these two powerful nutrients led to a massive ninefold reduction in outpatients's use of analgesics, or painkiller drugs.

"[S]upplementation with alpha lipoic acid (600 mg/d) and superoxide dismutase (140 IU/d) for a period of 60 days was found to be associated with significantly reduced use of analgesics (8 percent of patients still used analgesics post-trial, as compared to 73.5 percent at baseline)," explains the study's summary.

"In addition, according to self-reporting tools, after 40 days of the intervention, perceived pain and functional disabilities significantly improved in a way that was both statistically and clinically significant."

ALA can also be administered intravenously for more potent results

Chronic pain that results from any kind of nerve damage is admittedly very difficult to treat using conventional methods, primarily due to the fact that the actual source of pain may not appear to be at all related to where and how it is being manifested. But a 2010 study published in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine found that ALA, when injected, can help mitigate it. Compared to oral supplementation with ALA at the same dosage, daily injections of ALA at 600 mg were found to bring about noticeably positive results in patients with neuropathic pain.

"Based on the currently available evidence, when given intravenously at a dosage of 600 mg once daily over a period of three weeks, alpha lipoic acid leads to a significant and clinically relevant reduction in neuropathic pain," wrote the authors in their conclusion.

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