According to data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), over 25 million American adults experience chronic pain – pain that occurs daily for at least three months. Some of the most common causes of chronic pain include arthritis, diabetic neuropathy, headache, post-surgical or post-trauma pain, and lower back pain.
Lower back pain is the single leading cause of disability around the world and while there are many potential causes, scoliosis accounts for a significant number of cases each year.
When scoliosis pain becomes unmanageable, adults often turn to pain medications; however, some of the most effective treatments for scoliosis pain are not prescription drugs but natural remedies like curcumin and CBD oil.
Understanding Scoliosis Pain
Scoliosis pain (not scoliosis itself) may be caused by strained muscles in the back or increased pressure on the spinal discs. It can also result from inflammation or pinched nerves.
Over-the-counter medications can be used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation related to scoliosis, but they may not provide complete relief and often come with the risk of unwanted side effects. Other treatments — such as bracing — can restrict movement and might cause additional problems to develop. Surgery, meanwhile, is highly invasive and comes with numerous dangers of its own.
When these conventional treatment methods fall short, patients often turn to natural remedies.
Curcumin for Scoliosis Pain Management
Curcumin is a bright yellow plant pigment found in spices such as turmeric.
Turmeric has been used medicinally in India for thousands of years, with health benefits mainly stemming from its curcumin content. Curcumin is packed with healthful compounds that can benefit a variety of different diseases.
For example, a review of curcumin research published in the journal Foods explains the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant mechanisms of action for curcumin. Curcumin is able to scavenge several different types of free radicals and counteract the oxidative stress caused by the inflammation of many chronic diseases.
Piperine, the major active component of black pepper, increases the bioavailability (i.e. absorption) of curcumin and may boost its pain-relieving benefits. In fact, a 1997 study showed that co-administration of curcumin and piperine increased bioavailability by a whopping 2,000%.
A powerful phytochemical with endless health benefits, curcumin offers natural antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties . It is also a natural pain reliever, even for scoliosis pain.
Curcumin is the subject of more than 100 clinical trials currently being conducted and registered with the National Institutes of Health. Some of this research specifically shows the benefits of curcumin for managing scoliosis pain in adult patients.
Clinical evidence also supports the use of curcumin for scoliosis pain.
In a 2015 study, participants experienced a 40% reduction in scoliosis pain over a six-month period when taking curcumin supplements. The patients in this study were given a controlled-release curcumin supplement and asked to complete concurrent exercise-based scoliosis treatment. After six months, the group taking curcumin supplements reported larger average improvements in pain ratings.
For pain relief, curcumin works by inhibiting the activity of certain enzymes that have been implicated in inflammation. The anti-inflammatory benefits of curcumin are so strong that some scientific studies suggest it could be used as a standalone analgesic (i.e. painkiller). This is an important benefit because many pain-relieving medications – though generally recognized as safe by the FDA – come with the risk of side effects and may have an adverse effect on the renal, gastrointestinal, or cardiovascular systems.
Another way in which curcumin works to relieve pain is by systemically acting on the central nervous system to limit the interpretation of pain impulses. This mechanism can be seen in action with many neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and major depression. These benefits are explained in a review published in the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
The pain-relieving benefits of curcumin are best harnessed by taking a curcumin supplement because food sources of curcumin have a very low concentration of the compound.
How is CBD Oil Different from Curcumin?
Another natural substance known to relieve pain is cannabidiol, or CBD oil – one of more than 60 compounds belonging to a class of chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD oil does not produce the euphoric “high” for which cannabis is known. It does, however, help regulate certain bodily functions — including pain.
CBD oil is relatively new in the field of pharmacology when it comes to pain relief, but the scientific results are promising. According to a study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, CBD oil is effective at improving numerous types of pain, including neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia pain, and rheumatoid arthritis pain. It has also been shown to improve sleep and may improve spasticity in neurodegenerative disorders like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.
It is important to note that while CBD oil does offer analgesic effects, it does not contain anti-inflammatory properties. CBD oil is generally well tolerated, but there is a risk for side effects such as diarrhea, fatigue, changes in appetite, and weight loss or weight gain.
The recommended dose to achieve moderate pain improvement is around 25mg per day — a dose that is high enough to be cost-prohibitive for some patients. Also, since access to medical-grade cannabis varies from one state to another, it may not always be a viable option. In contrast, curcumin is readily available in supplement form and can be purchased without a prescription.
Which is the Best Option?
While both curcumin and CBD oil offer promising pain-reducing benefits, it is important to understand that both products demonstrate good clinical benefits for specific types of pain.
CBD oil is effective for neuropathic pain, arthritis pain, and fibromyalgia pain. These types of pain are common in scoliosis patients who are already fused, have additional health challenges, and have nerve-related pain from spinal disc bulges/herniations or arthritis spurring that is irritating a spinal nerve.
Curcumin, on the other hand, is more beneficial for inflammatory conditions where chronic, achy, muscular, and/or joint pain is a recurring symptom.
Unfortunately, many scoliosis patients experience all of these types of pain, and would therefore benefit from both curcumin and CBD oil. Thankfully, there are now products available that contain both, so needing to pick one over the other for budget purposes in not necessary.
Whichever route you choose, be sure to select a high-quality product and talk to your doctor before starting or stopping any supplements or medications.