An ointment containing an extract of comfrey root quickly and effectively relieves back pain, finds industry sponsored research published ahead of print in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The authors base their findings on 120 people with upper or lower back pain who were treated three times a day for five days with either a dummy ointment or one containing comfrey root extract.
The participants were all aged between 18 and 60 and rubbed on 4 g of ointment at each application.
They were asked to assess their levels of back pain, and to what degree this interfered with normal movement, using validated pain and mobility scales on four separate occasions before, during, and at the end of the study period.
Neither the trial participants nor the researchers knew who had been given the comfrey root extract ointment.
Only one person given the comfrey root extract ointment had taken a regular painkiller (paracetamol) for a cold.
The results showed that pain intensity fell by an average of 39% between the first and fourth assessment among the 60 people treated with the dummy ointment.
But among those treated with the comfrey root extract ointment, the fall in pain intensity averaged 95% between the first and fourth assessment.
Comfrey root also was also fast acting, relieving pain after an hour.
Several previous studies have also compared the effectiveness of comfrey root preparations with regular anti-inflammatory creams for the relief of muscle and joint pain. The results indicated that comfrey root was more effective.