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.
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.
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.