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Alternative Treatments for Low Back Pain

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Updated July 01, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

back pain treatment

Many alternative treatments are used for low back pain.

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Back Pain Treatments:

There are numerous treatments for low back pain. While most medical doctors steer patients towards medications to control symptoms, and therapy and exercise to improve function, there are also a number of other options. These are some of the alternative treatments commonly used in the treatment of low back pain.

Chiropractic Treatment:

Spinal manipulation by chiropractors or osteopathic doctors has been shown to be as safe and effective as traditional treatments for back pain. The best results have been shown when manipulation is used in the treatment of recent onset back pain. Less evidence is available in the treatment of chronic back pain.

Situations where back pain could be the result of infection, tumors, or fractures require thorough evaluation before manipulation. In addition, patients who have leg pain or nerve symptoms (weakness, numbness, etc.) associated with their back pain should not have spinal manipulations until evaluated.

Acupuncture:

Acupuncture has been used in Chinese medicine for 2,000 years to treat a variety of conditions. Treatment of back pain with acupuncture has many success stories. However, there is little proof that acupuncture is any better than placebo treatment for most types of back pain. That said, acupuncture may be a reasonable treatment, especially in individuals who have not had success with other more traditional treatments. Acupuncture is known to be safe, and often effective when used in conjunction with other treatments for chronic, painful conditions.

Massage:

Massage offers symptomatic relief for back pain caused by muscle spasm. The problem with massage treatments is that the relief seldom lasts beyond the actual treatment. Furthermore, treatments can be quite expensive. That said, if you find relief from massage, there is unlikely any harm to be caused by these treatments.

Magnet Therapy:

Magnets are commonly sold as remedies for a variety of conditions. Magnets have never been shown to be an effective treatment for back pain. The magnets that are sold for the treatment of back pain are very weak, and have no detectable effect on circulation or tissue temperature, despite claims to the contrary.

Source:

Shen FH, et al. "Nonsurgical Management of Acute and Chronic Low Back Pain" J. Am. Acad. Orthop. Surg., August 2006; 14: 477 - 487.

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