Turning up the Heat on Back Pain

About four out of five Americans will experience serious back pain at some point in their lives, whether it be from work, play, or something else. The remedies for back pain are as numerous as its causes, but one in particular has been gathering interest lately: cayenne peppers.

Cayenne peppers are a variety of red pepper grown around the world and are especially popular in the dishes of tropical and subtropical cultures. They are often referred to as chili peppers, or just “chilis.” Though not the hottest pepper out there, they provide a generous level of spice to any meal. If you’re not a fan of spicy foods, don’t worry. The relieving effects from the peppers don’t come from ingesting them.

Instead, a chemical called capsaicin does the job from the outside. Capsaicin, sometimes just called “cayenne,” is found in high quantities in cayenne peppers. The chemical is extracted from them and has a variety of uses. When used as a back pain reliever, it’s usually mixed into a gel or paste and applied directly to the affected area.

The capsaicin plaster has in some cases been shown to provide almost immediate pain relief. However, it usually needs a few applications over the course of several days to have the full effect.  Over time, the cayenne inhibits the pain-receipting neurons in the area of application, providing relief.

If you’re considering trying cayenne to relieve back pain, don’t think you’ll be able to just rub a cayenne pepper on your skin to make it go away.  The peppers typically need to be run through a special extraction processed to get the product in a usable form. You can find capsaicin both in a concentrated pill or gel and in a premade plaster for topical application. Some drug stores, especially those specializing in alternative medicine carry it. You can also find it online.

If you’re wary of modern medicines due to the high costs or the artificial chemicals present in them, cayenne may be a viable alternative. It also compliments other traditional remedies, such as yoga, acupuncture, or massage. However, you should always seek a doctor’s advice before using it. It can have adverse effects on the skin, resulting in welts and rashes. In some instances, a professional touch may be required to apply the capsaicin gel correctly,


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