Cholesterol lowering drugs linked to back pain

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

Back pain is common. It’s a significant cause of chronic pain, missed days at work, impaired sleep and depression. It’s also a common cause of impaired liver and gut health, due to long term ingestion of pain killers. In some people cholesterol lowering drugs may be a culprit.

People taking the cholesterol lowering drugs called statins are 30 percent more likely to develop a serious back disorder. These findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and involved an analysis of 60,455 patients. The back disorders include bulging discs and narrowing of the spinal column; both of which can cause severe pain, numbness or loss of function. Statins have a long list of potential side effects. This is a new and surprising addition.

Older studies have shown that up to six out of ten patients taking statins experience side effects; these may include cataracts, liver damage, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, mental confusion and muscle pain. There is great debate among doctors over whether the benefits of statins are worth the numerous serious side effects, or whether high cholesterol is even associated with cardiovascular disease.

Leading UK cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra has said “Far from being a miracle drug, statins can result in a number of side effects including debilitating back problems. Unless you have established heart disease the reduction in quality of life from statins massively outweighs any small benefit.”

If you have elevated cholesterol, it is usually an indicator of metabolic problems in your body. People with syndrome X are more likely to have high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol. They are also more likely to have elevated triglycerides, high blood pressure and carry too much fat around their torso. There is more information in our book Cholesterol: The Real Truth.

Sometimes cholesterol can be high because there is too much inflammation in your body. Lowering the inflammation addresses the cholesterol and reduces your risk of heart disease. People with the autoimmune disease lupus are at far greater risk of heart disease. See our book Healing Autoimmune Disease: A plan to help your immune system and reduce inflammation. High cholesterol can also be an indicator of an underactive thyroid gland.

If you are suffering with back pain, the most important thing to do is get a correct diagnosis. Depending on your age, occupation, state of health and the frequency with which you experience back pain, you may need to see a physician and obtain a scan of your spine.  This may be a CT scan or an MRI.

Once you know the diagnosis, it is important to see a physician (such as an osteopath, physiotherapist or chiropractor) who can give you a series of stretches, exercises and/or adjustments.  It is important to do the prescribed exercises and stretches regularly, as this will speed up your recovery and help to prevent future episodes of pain.

Occasionally lower back pain is caused by another illness and actually has nothing to do with the spinal column.  That’s why it is important to see your doctor.

It is also important to make sure your diet is as healthy as possible. Inflammation increases pain and some foods increase the level of inflammation inside your body; these foods include sugar, wheat, gluten, cow’s milk, alcohol and any food you may have a sensitivity to.  Keep your intake of those foods to a minimum while you are in pain.

There are several nutrients and supplements that can help you to overcome back pain faster, and reduce your risk of future episodes.  The right supplements can reduce pain and inflammation, assist the healing of discs, strengthen bones, improve the quality of cartilage and promote a healthy nervous system.  By taking your health in your own hands, you can significantly improve the health of your spine.

MSM is a natural form of sulphur that helps to reduce pain and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent.  Sulphur is needed for collagen production, which is necessary for tissue repair. MSM is found in Collagen Food powder, along with vitamin C, biotin, zinc and silica.

Please don’t discontinue any medication without consultation with your doctor.

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