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Try a Holistic Approach to Back Pain

Try a Holistic Approach to Back Pain

Q: My sister’s doctor has told her it’s OK to take Vicodin daily for her chronic back pain. Am I right to be concerned about this course of treatment?

A: I once heard one of my colleagues describe the situation of someone suffering from chronic pain as equally stressful on the body as running a marathon every single day of your life. I sympathize for your sister and her predicament.

Without knowing more details (what regimens have been tried previously, what is the cause of the pain, etc), it’s difficult to say whether Vicodin is the best choice for your sister.

Vicodin is a powerful narcotic painkiller that in its oral form is 1.5 times more potent than morphine and can be a very valuable tool in helping to manage chronic pain.

The one thing I would encourage is that your sister approach her pain in a holistic manner, using exercise as well as spending some time to make certain that her mental outlook stays positive, both of which are proven therapies for the management of chronic pain.

Use the medication as a supplement and not a sole source of pain relief.

Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting

Got a health question for Dr. Brent? E-mail him at

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Dr. Brent

As an undergraduate, Dr. Brent Ridge majored in public health and environmental science, studying the way the state of the natural environment impacts our health choices. As a physician, he specializes in the field of aging. Send your health questions to Dr. Brent at


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2:55AM PST on Feb 3, 2015

Waow this is quite pleasant article, my sister love to read such type of post, I am going to tell her and bookmarking this webpage. Thanks

11:20AM PDT on May 27, 2014


9:51AM PDT on Aug 28, 2012

Really great article on getting pain relief from Sciatic nerve pain. Have you seen this other site on interventional pain management review, it's similar to yours.

11:32AM PST on Nov 9, 2008

Hi Jani! I met a lot of people using these prducts and dirt poor. They turned it into business since it is also a wonderful business to have. One lady she even had cancer, and her ex husband divorced her at that time, she did not have anything but cancer at that time. But now, she is cured, and owned her own business, herself is the best example which we people who are healthy don't have. You do have a chance.

5:04AM PST on Nov 9, 2008

I have just read through all of the comments and find them quite appropriate. Before I became disabled to the point of having to file for SSDI, I used natural supplements, modalities, etc. however now I barely get enough from disability income to survive. I cannot afford anything that Medicare/Medicaid will not pay for and have no family to help me out financially. I lost my vehicle when a teenager on her cell phone, looking the other way ran a stop sign in front of me. I live in a small town and could not find an attorney to take my case;conflict of interest. the family is wealthy and lives 2 houses down from the district judge. I would love to use holistic but it does cost money and there are some of us that just do not have it. I wake up every day wondering how I am going to make it through the month/day. I have multiple, severe, neuro, muscular/skeletal issues and my pain is constant. My only connection to the outside world is my computer, I cannot afford t.v. or any extras.I do as much as I can for myself but for me I have no alternatives if Medicare/Medicaid will not pay. So please do not be so quick to make judgemnts regarding meds. for chronic pain.I would love to have the alternatives many of you enjoy but they are not available for me and many I know.There is a huge difference in being addicted and dependant. Yes, I do know the affects and it does scare me especially when I cannot even afford vitamins, etc. to counteract but again those things cost money.

4:38PM PDT on Nov 1, 2008

Yes, addiction is a very real fear. But, in the case of my mother who is confined to a wheelchair she has bursitis in both shoulders, stenosis of the spine (located in several different areas), chronic inflamation and pain of the left foot, and now "trigger finger" on both hands! She can't exercise, she only eats 600 calories a day, and she can't even get out so she might be able to be alone and collect her thoughts! Vicodin is the only solution of not living in total pain! She still has the problem of being loopy and possibly becoming an addict.

12:45PM PDT on Nov 1, 2008

I've had knee paing for 10 years and have gone to many specialists who have not determined the source. My experience has been as Milinia noted, i.e. the approach was to mask rather than determine the cause.

11:29AM PDT on Nov 1, 2008

We may need to assist the body in fighting inflammation and free radical damage, which result in many chronic diseases and conditions. Go to and pay no shipping.

10:19PM PDT on Oct 31, 2008

You could say the doctor shouldn't recommend it even as a supplement, but he himself admits he doesn't know her history (we don't either) and doesn't know that it's the best choice. I agree on not taking these things habitually; I know people who refuse to take that stuff unless they really really have to. The fear of addiction is right.
Me, I got great results out of bodywork...specifically the Alexander Technique, for my terrifying tension headaches--and if it worked on my neck and head by teaching me to get more out of using and working my body in a good way. Don't see that it couldn't help someone with back pain, too. If you want to avoid pain and get more out of exercise, this helps you yourself control a source of aches and pains you maybe never thought of. It's no easy fix (you'd be surprised at what you do to yourself/how you use your body, I still am) and promises no instant results--but nothing happens overnight.

9:13PM PDT on Oct 31, 2008

I am puzzled as to why would a doctor who advocates for a wholistic approach to health recommend pain killers even as a supplement to so called alternative treatments. To me, that is not a holistic approach--that is still a compromise with the dominant western thinking about symptoms, approach that favors masking pain without addressing any origins. How is the toxicity of commonly prescribed medications addressed and the question about what they do to our bodies if taken for a long time?


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