Lower Back Pain


Q) My girlfriend has nagging lower back pain but can’t take ordinary painkillers because of a stomach ulcer. Are there any alternatives?

A) There are several options for this debilitating problem, which afflicts most people at some stage in their lives, according to Professor Peter Littlejohns, clinical and public health director of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice). The latest Nice guidelines outline a range of effective complementary treatments as well as mainstream options (see nice.org.uk).

Nice recommends that you should stay physically active and if possible follow a structured individual programme including exercises to strengthen muscles, improve posture and stretching.

Nice also advises GPs to consider offering a course of manual therapy, including chiropractic (which has made a huge difference to me), osteopathy or specialist physiotherapists and doctors. The British Chiropractic Association offers useful information on its website, chiropractic-uk.co.uk, including a three-minute Straighten Up programme.

A course of acupuncture is also recommended, up to a maximum of ten sessions over 12 weeks. Your girlfriend may wish to discuss this with her GP.

As a complementary supplement, many health professionals recommend the Indian spice turmeric, which is a potent anti-inflammatory, working in the same way as the discredited Cox-2 inhibitor drugs, but without any of the side effects. As well as helping aches and pains, turmeric is traditionally used for stomach disorders including ulcers. It has multiple other benefits: I first heard about it 25 years ago from a consultant colorectal surgeon who extolled its virtues for preventing polyps, the precursor of bowel tumours. It also enhances liver function, protects the heart and may help defend against dementia.

Ayurvedic physician Sebastian Pole, founder of Pukka Herbs, recommends organic Wholistic Turmeric for everyone, and his Active blend of turmeric, boswellia and ginger for pain, arthritis, osteoporosis and inflammation of any kind. Your girlfriend may wish to take it with organic aloe vera juice to help her stomach. Wholistic Turmeric and Active, each £15.95 for 30 capsules, from shop.pukkaherbs.com.

Topical products can provide instant relief: tennis coach Judy Murray is said to have relied on Joint Hero Joint And Muscle Rub from her favourite Scottish natural brand Argan Organics, £12.99, from arganorganics.co.uk. I am never without Magnesium Oil Original Spray, £12.30.


When I was little, rainy afternoons were sometimes a treat because my mother would sit me down with a new colouring-in book. It meant peace for her and hours of enjoyment for me. To my delight, colouring books have now become the vogue for adults, too, as a potent de-stressing activity, recommended by psychologists to help people relax.


Art Therapy Mandalas: 100 Designs for Colouring In and Meditation by Sophie Leblanc (Jacqui Small). This celestial symbol is traditionally used for meditation.

Animal Kingdom: A Colouring Book Adventure by Millie Marotta (Batsford). From elephants to hippos, via rhinos, rabbits and whales, this will enchant all ages.

For colouring pencils, try Derwent or Caran d’Ache ranges. All available from amazon.co.uk

Sara Goes With The Slow

The slow cooker is back, according to health coach Sarah Wilson, author of I Quit Sugar (iquitsugar.com). ‘It’s the best way to cook for easy wellness, preserving all the nutrients, allowing you to use cheaper cuts of meats, and saving electricity.’ It also saves on stress – pop it together in the morning and, abracadabra, a ready meal in the evening. For slow cookers, visit lakeland.co.uk. Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar Slow Cooker Cookbook is available on Kindle from amazon.co.uk.


Discover three good things to do on this website: give your liver a rest from alcohol for January, raise money for Cancer Research UK by persuading friends, family and colleagues to sponsor your Dryathlon – as well as saving calories and cash (which could go to the charity). So swap the mulled wine for ginger tea and get a glow all round.

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