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Low Back Pain and Sciatica and Cayenne

Written by sshowalter, FoundHealth.

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Effect of Cayenne on Low Back Pain and Sciatica

Cayenne contains capsaicin, a substance that produces an immediate burning sensation but later reduces pain. When applied directly to the pain point, cayenne can possibly be helpful for treating low back pain and sciatica.

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Research Evidence on Cayenne

One double-blind study found a topical cayenne treatment more effective than placebo in 320 people with low back pain.54 However, on the face of it, one finds it difficult to believe that this study was truly double-blind. When cayenne is applied to the skin, it causes such an intense sensation that participants could hardly fail to notice it. When people in a study know whether they are getting real treatment or placebo treatment, the validity of the study's results is greatly decreased.

Safety Issues

Capsaicin creams commonly cause an unpleasant burning sensation when they are first applied; this sensation disappears over subsequent days as treatment is continued.

As a commonly used food, cayenne is generally recognized as safe. Contrary to some reports, cayenne does not appear to aggravate stomach ulcers . 1

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking:

  • The asthma drug theophylline : Cayenne might increase the amount you absorb, possibly leading to toxic levels. 2
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs : Cayenne might protect your stomach from damage.


  1. Graham DY, Smith JL, Opekun AR. Spicy food and the stomach. Evaluation by videoendoscopy. JAMA. 260(23):3473-5.
  2. Bouraoui A, Toumi A, Mustapha HB, et al. Effects of capsicum fruit on theophylline absorption and bioavailability in rabbits. Drug Nutr Interact. 1998;5:345-350.
  1. Frerick H, Keitel W, Kuhn U. Topical treatment of chronic low back pain with a capsicum plaster. Pain. 2003;106:59-64.

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