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Can SAM-e Help Ease Your Back Pain?

SAM-e performed as well as an NSAID drug to relieve arthritis pain in some studies. Might it help you feel better?
Can SAM-e Help Ease Your Back Pain?
Senior man with backache

The pain of arthritis can be very difficult to manage. Arthritis does not take vacations. On the other hand, common pain relievers such as diclofenac (prescription), ibuprofen or naproxen can be dangerous if they are taken day after day long term. What sorts of alternatives can be helpful? Some people have found that a supplement called SAM-e helps ease the pain.

Is SAM-e Helpful for Arthritis Pain?

Q. Because of constant pain, I was diagnosed with severe arthritis of the lower back. Before agreeing to invasive treatments, I tried using the supplement SAM-e. For the past six months, I have been in no pain whatsoever!

A. SAM-e, or S-adenosylmethionine, is not a standard treatment for arthritis pain. However, family physicians occasionally recommend it for knee pain because it appears to offer some benefit with little downside (American Family Physician, June 1, 2011).  One study appeared to show that after two months it was about as effective as celecoxib (Celebrex) to alleviate knee arthritis pain (BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, Feb. 26, 2004). In another clinical trial, SAM-e relieved arthritis pain about as well as nabumetone, an NSAID (Clinical Therapeutics, Dec. 2009).

What Is SAM-e?

SAM-e is a natural compound that circulates in the body. However, people with conditions such as arthritis or depression appear to have lower levels than healthy individuals. The recommended dose of 800 to 1600 mg per day (divided into two or three doses to be taken with meals) is the same for both disorders.

Side Effects of SAM-e:

As noted above, most clinicians consider SAM-e to be fairly safe. Side effects are uncommon. Occasionally, however, a person taking SAM-e will experience mania. This might even be a person who has not had a previous manic episode. You can find a more complete summary at Examine.com

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Citations
  • Ringdahl E & Pandit S, "Treatment of knee osteoarthritis." American Family Physician, June 1, 2011.
  • Najm WI et al, "S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe) versus celecoxib for the treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms: A double-blind cross-over trial. [ISRCTN36233495]" BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, Feb. 26, 2004. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-5-6
  • Kim J et al, "Comparative Clinical Trial of S-adenosylmethionine Versus Nabumetone for the Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis: An 8-week, Multicenter, Randomized, Double-Blind, Double-Dummy, Phase IV Study in Korean Patients." Clinical Therapeutics, Dec. 2009. DOI: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2009.12.016
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