Back Pain and B-Vitamins

In today’s IT age, backache has become a sign of the times. Children aged as young as two are being exposed to the ipad and laptops, while older people spend too much time being sedentary due to high-tech appliances and devices. 

With too much time spent sitting and too little time flexing and stretching, back pain has become increasingly common across all ages for various reasons.

The younger population may get strains at their back muscles, ligaments and joints due to abrupt or excessive activity or sports, while the older generation may get backache from disc degeneration, arthritis, sciatica or osteoporosis. Poor posture and intense emotional stress is also found to be a trigger for back pain.

Although the pain may have appeared suddenly, the problem has actually developed over a long period of time. Backache has become one of the most common reasons for hospital visits in the recent years.


The good news about backache is that it is usually transient and usually goes away by itself after a few days. However, backache that is persistent or severe needs to be assessed by an expert to rule out serious arthritic conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis and other rarer causes of back pain.

Treatment is usually targeted at pain relief with medications such as painkillers and muscle relaxants. This may be complemented with non-medicinal therapies such as hot packs, ultrasound or infra-red therapy. That is only the beginning, as long term care is necessary to prevent its recurrence.

Once the pain has subsided, exercises or physiotherapy will be initiated to maintain flexibility and prevent future backache.

Patients will also be advised on posture and back care, such as not hunching, walking with a straight back and using a cushion or ergonomic chair if sitting for long hours. Obese or overweight patients will also be advised to lose weight to reduce the stress placed on the spinal cord.


Managing the pain is a crucial aspect of treatment for backache, as debilitating pain can affect other aspects of the patient’s progress and may potentially lead to other problems such as depression. Having good pain management allows patients to go back to their daily routine and initiate exercise programmes for improved wellbeing.

The most common medication for backache is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which function to stop pain and inflammation. Given in the right doses and duration, NSAIDs are a safe and effective way to control pain and inflammation.

In cases of severe pain, however, doses need to be increased, which may lead to side effects such as gastrointestinal problems (nausea, vomiting, dyspepsia) and increased risk of heart problems, erectile dysfunction, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney failure and others.

As such, lower doses are believed to be safer, but at amounts that does not compromise on its efficacy levels.

Earlier studies in 1998 that were published in scientific journal Z Rheumatol showed that vitamin B-complex can help reduce pain symptoms and shorten treatment period compared to just taking NSAIDs alone.

The results were reaffirmed in another 1990 study involving 122 patients with back pain using a lower dose of NSAID. The group that was given vitamin B-complex together with their NSAID reported significant reduction in pain after 3 days, compared to the group on NSAID alone who experienced no change in symptoms.

This pain reduction and elimination meant that patients could reduce the number of days they had to take NSAIDs and allowed them to take it at the lowest dose possible (75mg) compared to conventional treatments (150mg). Lower doses and shorter medication periods of NSAIDs also reduce the risks of side effects for patients.

The next time your backache strikes, discuss with your doctor or pharmacist on the vitamin B-complex that can lower your NSAID doses. Get your life back without backache!

This educational article is brought to you by Merck

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