Bulging and deterioration of spinal disks can occur with or without pain, and can result from long durations of small, accumulated stresses, or a single, high-force stress like lifting a heavy box with poor body mechanics, notes Dr. Karim Khan, author of "Clinical Sports Medicine." Bulging disks can lead to local inflammation and pain, and tend to be slow-healing as the disks have little blood supply, so using supplements to control inflammation and promote healing can help improve function.
The enzyme bromelain has been shown to reduce pain and improve scar formation following injury to soft tissues like the spinal disks, notes the book "150 Healthiest Foods on Earth." It is found in high amounts in pineapples, but "150 Healthiest Foods on Earth" suggests supplementing with 500 mg of bromelain up to four times daily to help improve joint health and mitigate inflammation. Use caution when taking bromelain supplements, however, as it can slow blood clotting rates, particularly if you take blood thinners. Discuss bromelain supplementation with your doctor prior to use.
Melatonin and Fish Oil
Melatonin, a hormone produced in small quantities in the brain that helps to induce sleep, can play a role in helping deal with pain and discomfort while the disk heals. Taken together with omega-3 fatty acids, specifically fish oil, the combination can help control inflammation, reduce chronic pain and improve joint function, according to the Life Extension Foundation. For best results, take enough fish oil to acquire at least 2.4 g of combined EPA and DHA -- about 6 to 10 capsules spread throughout the day -- and between 3 and 10 mg of melatonin right before bedtime. Fish oil in high doses can reduce blood clotting, and melatonin can leave you feeling groggy in the morning, so be sure to speak with your physician prior to beginning any supplement program. Never take melatonin when operating potentially dangerous machinery or when driving.
Bulging and deteriorating disks often push against nerve roots exiting the spine, and can result in pain being felt not only in the spine itself, but at segments far away from the root cause. Called neurogenic pain, it can make treatment difficult, and can often result in a string of incorrect diagnoses before a bulging disk is correctly identified as the cause, says Dr. Khan. B-vitamins -- especially B1, niacin, B6 and B12 -- in slightly higher than necessary dosages have demonstrated good success in reducing neurogenic pain. The Life Extension Foundation suggests taking 150 mg of B1 up to three times daily, 500 mg of niacin, 250 mg of B6 and up to 500 mcg of vitamin B12 daily for at least 2 weeks to help reduce pain from deteriorating disks. As with all supplements, consult with your physician prior to use.
- "Clinical Sports Medicine"; Peter Brukner, M.D. and Karim Khan, M.D.; 2005
- "150 Healthiest Foods on Earth"; Jonny Bowden, C.N.S.; 2007
- Life Extension Foundation: Chronic Pain