A number of complementary and alternative treatments are used to relieve back pain. Complementary means it is used together with conventional medicine. Alternative means it is done in place of conventional medicine.
Acupuncture is now a common alternative treatment for certain kinds of pain. It involves inserting small needles or exerting pressure on certain "energy" points in the body. When the pins have been placed successfully, the patient is supposed to experience a sensation that brings a feeling of fullness, numbness, tingling, and warmth with some soreness around the acupuncture point. Unfortunately, rigorous studies of acupuncture are difficult to perform, and most evidence on its benefits is weak. In any case, it may be helpful for certain patients with back pain, such as pregnant women, who must avoid medications. Anyone who undergoes acupuncture should be sure it is performed in a reputable facility by experienced practitioners who use sterilized equipment.
Acupuncture has not shown any benefits for acute low back pain in most patients, but may provide some help for patients with chronic low back pain.
|Click the icon to see an image of acupuncture.|
Massage therapy can help some patients with chronic or acute back pain, especially when combined with exercise and patient education.
A course of cognitive-behavioral therapy can help reduce chronic back pain, or at least enhance the patient's ability to deal with it. The primary goal of this form of therapy in such cases is to change the distorted perceptions that patients have of themselves, and change their approach to pain. Patients use specific tasks and self-observations to help them change their thinking. They gradually shift their perception of helplessness against the pain that dominates their lives into the perception that pain is only one negative among many positives and, to a degree, a manageable experience.
Review Date: 04/07/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.