The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


My doctor says I need back surgery. Should I try other “alternative” medicine treatments first?

Research shows that patients with back pain are seeking out “complimentary” or “alternative” medical providers in record numbers. A recent study showed that there are more than 200 million visits to non-physician caregivers each year for back and neck pain alone. In addition to chiropractic doctors, patients visit acupuncturists, herbalists, aroma therapists, massage therapists, energy healers, yoga masters, and others. Another study shows that many patients simultaneously obtain care from both traditional and non-traditional sources.

As yet, there is no research documenting the efficiency of alternative care in general. Chiropractic has been shown to help acute back pain and may benefit some with chronic back ache. Acupuncture is gaining in popularity. Acupuncture may be helpful for neck and back pain which do not respond to other treatments. Acupuncture treatments are not painful. Most patients describe it as “relaxing.” Massage therapy helps most acute and some chronic muscle spasm. There are no herbal treatments that are currently recommended for acute or chronic back pain. Other alternative treatments are available but remain very controversial.

Common sense says that it would be reasonable to try alternative treatments, before considering invasive surgery. This does not apply to emergency problems like bleeding or broken bones. It does not apply to conditions where permanent damage might result from a delay in treatment. Your spine specialist can help you select the therapies most likely to help you.



The information in this site briefly describes issues related to medical treatments, and has been licensed by from Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc., who is solely responsible for said content.  This web site is not a substitute for good medical care or for a consultation with a spine specialist. It should not be used to plan your treatment. The well considered advice of a specialist who has personally examined you is always superior to even the best internet pages.

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Last modified: 07/27/08