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Studies onAlternative Therapies for Back Pain


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#1    QuiteContrary

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 05:43 PM

Alternative Therapy for Back Pain         ***DISCLAIMER*** not to be construed as medical advice.

My husband went to the Emergency Room (USA) the other day, and despite his many visits/surgeries to several hospitals over the years, for the first time ever, he was given an 8-page hand-out on  “Alternative Therapy” for back pain from a hospital. As popular as alternative therapies are, and as common as back pain is, I can see the reason for hospitals to offer this type of information to patients. The hand-out was geared toward nonspecific back pain, where a serious cause has been ruled out.

The hand-out gave results from various studies on the effectiveness of alternatives  back pain therapy compared to conventional treatments. Which the hand-out claims there is little evidence conventional treatments provide much benefit.

There were no study/university names or any resources listed, so I am sorry I can’t offer them in the OP.

Effective therapy can be very individual and what works/doesn’t work for some may not help/help others. Plus some patients prefer non-drug, less expensive treatments. Conventional treatment per the article consists of taking anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants, time, physical therapy, and soft tissue massage.

Chiropractic: Popular treatment may have at least a modest benefit but has failed to be convincingly more effective than standard care.

Acupuncture: Not shown to be effective in and of itself, as studies comparing fake acupuncture results and real acupuncture results on back pain had similar outcomes. Thus acupuncture is not effective per se, However, it’s power as a placebo is significant. It was found to be more beneficial than physical therapy, TENS units, chiropractic care and massage. But since TENS units, physical therapy, and so forth have not been shown to be effective for back pain, studies cannot be taken as evidence that acupuncture is effective.
Low level laser therapy (LLLT) similar to electro-acupuncture: Researchers were unable to draw any conclusions regarding the effectiveness for nonspecific back pain.
One study did find acupressure massage more effective than standard physical therapy but this was in a Chinese population that may have had more faith in the traditional therapy.

Herbal Treatments
White willow extract: Appears to be helpful for acute and chronic back pain, presumedly because of its similarity to aspirin. Should not be combined with standard anti-inflammatory drugs.
Comfrey topical cream: Produced statistically significant benefits as compared to placebo.
Devil’s Claw: Results from two studies were “less than impressive” to “some benefit” in a third study.
Capsaicin topical ointment from cayenne: More effective than a placebo. However it is impossible to do a true double blind study when the ingredient causes such a recognizable burning sensation, thus greatly reducing a study’s validity.
Collagen Hydrolysate: Significantly reduced joint pain in hip, knee, elbow, shoulder, spine, in over 50 year old subjects.
No real supporting evidence: boswellia, butterbur, chondroitin, ginger, glucosamine, turmeric.

Manual Therapies
Osteopathic Manipulation: Shown to have some promise for treatment of back pain, one of the best designed studies failed to find it a superior alternative to conventional medical care. Another study failed to find it more effective than a sham manipulation.
Massage: Shown to be beneficial for up to 1 year (benefits varying from 10 weeks to 6 months to 1 year). However, the hand-out did not say how often the studies participants received a massage.
Alexander Technique (postural training): More effective than normal care and message when combined with exercise.

Tai Chi (18 sessions 40 minutes each over 10 weeks): Resulted in less pain and less disability. However,  there was no attention control group for this study which diminishes the results.
Prolotherapy: When used alone probably no more effective than a placebo but when combined with other therapies (spinal manipulation, exercise) there may be some benefit to it.

Biofeedback, balneotherapy, hatha yoga, magnet therapy, and relaxation therapies have shown a hint of promise for treating back pain. Although there have been as many negatives as positives for some of these treatments and some only had short-lived benefits.

In a study of 444 people, it was shown that alternative therapies improved patient satisfaction. However, they did not significantly improve symptoms.

In a brief study (7- days) yoga improved pain, depression and anxiety symptoms. The program included technique, education and counseling.

Edited by QuiteContrary, 24 August 2013 - 05:45 PM.

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#2    brlesq1

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Posted 25 August 2013 - 10:57 AM

So which one did your husband try? Or is he?

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#3    Rafterman

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Posted 25 August 2013 - 09:25 PM

View PostQuiteContrary, on 24 August 2013 - 05:43 PM, said:


In a study of 444 people, it was shown that alternative therapies improved patient satisfaction. However, they did not significantly improve symptoms.

And I think that's the reason they do it - a lot of physicians and hospitals find it's easier to just give in and indulge their patients when it comes to alternative treatments than to end up in argument with them about it.

"You can't have freedom of religion without having freedom from the religious beliefs of other people."

#4    QuiteContrary

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Posted 25 August 2013 - 09:38 PM

View Postbrlesq1, on 25 August 2013 - 10:57 AM, said:

So which one did your husband try? Or is he?

He swims for therapy, deadman's float (with snorkel) feels awesome on his spine he says.
Even though he was given this hand-out, his ER visit was related to a specific cause, surgery. He does not have nonspecific back pain. As the bone that was broken heals he is getting more and more relief.

Edited by QuiteContrary, 25 August 2013 - 09:39 PM.

Keep your eyes wide open and don't run!

P.S. Just to be clear, because sometimes I am not. I do not believe...
in the existence of a large previously unknown undiscovered hairy biped roaming North America.
But I like to hear the accounts, read the books, watch the shows, discuss and argue about the phenomenon.

#5    Render

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 06:46 AM

Yoga and Pilates:

Pilates was invented for a reason.




#6    phantasia

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 09:22 PM

Thank you for posting this.  I just had my first physical therapy appt this morning for lower back pain.  I think back pain management is highly individual and often a matter of trial and error.  I find laying in a recliner with my feet higher than my head feels great.

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#7    spacecowboy342

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 10:43 PM

Thanx for the post though I was hoping for better news about the alternatives. Personally yoga and ab strengthening has helped me more than anything. Some pain just can't be helped. Thankfully I finally weaned myself from pain pills as I think they did more harm than good( though for a while I didn't mind being in pain as much )


#8    Lava_Lady

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 05:22 AM

Very interesting QC!!  Thanks for the info compilation!

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#9    sutemi

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 09:55 AM

“One study did find acupressure massage more effective than standard physical therapy but this was in a Chinese population that may have had more faith in the traditional therapy.”
I have suffered back pain and sciatica for many years my doctors put me on anti inflammatory pills and pain killers which helped me keep my job and so support my family. But after doing Tai Chi (Lee Family ) I had a reoccurrence during a class and when my teacher saw my poor posture in the form he came over and discussed my problem. He called my partner over and showed her a point on my butt (the dimple area) and told her to massage this area whenever I had the problem. Well it worked immediately  and every time it comes back I get my partner to massage this general area and the relief is really fantastic, The result is I no longer need any pills so I have to say acupressure certainly worked for my particular problem.


#10    Whisperer

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 11:19 AM

I suffer terribly from lower back pain and have always doubted Acupuncture but after 3 years working thru theoreis with the medical proffesion I was finally refered to an acupuncturist and guess what, to my suprise my pain levels dropped by 80% and have remained so for 6 years following an eight week course...
It worked for me....

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