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What works for back pain

MagazineJune 2007 (Vol. 18 Issue 3)What works for back pain

The two most effective things you can do to alleviate back pain is tostay active - and so exercising the muscles that support the spine -and to have some form of spinal manipulation, either with a registeredosteopath or chiropractor

The two most effective things you can do to alleviate back pain is to stay active - and so exercising the muscles that support the spine - and to have some form of spinal manipulation, either with a registered osteopath or chiropractor.

It's recognised by conventional medicine that doctors have little to offer the back pain sufferer, other than to administer painkillers, and so 'best practice' guidelines suggest working with a registered osteopath or physiotherapist.

Unfortunately, guidelines for the referral of patients to physical therapy or spinal manipulation do not differentiate between chiropractic, osteopathy and physical therapy. This lack of a precise, common language may be at the root of continuing disagreements over which type of physical therapy is best for which type of backache. Medical research has not helped to clarify the issue; indeed, researchers may deliberately misuse terms such as "chiropractic" in their research.

While bed rest is the traditional recommendation for back sufferers, the latest research shows that movement is the key to preventing trauma from turning into chronic pain. Try to keep moving, within the limits of your level of pain. Investigate gentle exercises such a t'ai chi (a form of qigong). In one randomised controlled study, six weeks of t'ai chi significantly reduce the intensity of pain suffered by a group with chronic low back pain, compared with those given routine care. Pain was especially improved during the last week. T'ai chi has only 20 movements which can be taught over a period of eight weeks. Yoga and Alexander Technique may also be beneficial.

Possibly effective treatments:

  • Acupuncture
  • Biofeedback
  • Group education
  • Hypnosis
  • Least effective treatments:
  • Bed rest
  • Routine analgesics
  • Antidepressants
  • Opioid analgesics
  • Traction
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve
  • stimulation (TENS):
  • Corsets
  • Trigger point and ligament injections
  • Epidural injections

Back to How You Beat Back Pain


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