Complementary And Alternative Medicine For Chronic Back Pain

spiceracksFor decades many people worldwide have been using natural herbs and other alternative therapies to treat different illnesses including chronic back pain. However, of late, there seems to be an increase in the number of people relying on the use of complementary and alternative medicine, particularly among adult college students in the U.S. The question is however, does alternative therapy help in relieving chronic back pain in particular, and if so, to what extent?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), one of the most common conditions for which adults use complementary and alternative therapy is pain. It’s believed that because chronic long-term) pain can be resistant to many medical treatments and can also result in serious problems, individuals who have been experiencing chronic pain frequently used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for relief.

A very large percentage of the U.S. population suffer from pain that is considered chronic, severe, and is very difficult to manage. It has been reported that pain from back problems, musculoskeletal conditions, arthritis, and other common chronic pain, costs U.S. businesses over $61 billion annually in lost worker productivity.

Chronic pain is often described as any pain that persist for more than 12 weeks. Whereas acute pain is considered a normal sensation. An initial injury such as back sprain may be responsible for chronic pain or there may be an ongoing cause such as a disease, or there may be no evident cause. Low back pain is among some of the common chronic pain conditions that most people often experienced.

It’s a common practice for many people who suffer from chronic pain, including back pain, to take a variety of prescription and nonprescription drugs. However, most of the times, these medications do not provide enough relief and may also have undesirable side effects. Several other widely used pain management strategies, include cognitive behavioral therapy (the emphasis is placed on the role of thought patterns), physical therapy, exercise, and various CAM therapies.

Based on information provided by NCCAM, in the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, back pain was by far the most common condition cited as a reason for using CAM. Another survey of more than 400 patients at a chronic pain clinic found that almost 40 percent used at least one form of CAM, according to literature reviewed.

Many people who have been trying to get some relief from back pain and other chronic pain have been using many different types of CAM therapies. Some of these alternative therapies include dietary supplements, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and several other herbs. They also have been using mind and body approaches, such as acupuncture, guided imagery, hypnotherapy, massage, meditation, relaxation therapy, spinal manipulation, tai chi, and yoga.

It is believed that despite the widespread use of Complementary and alternative medicine for back pain and other chronic pain, scientific evidence on whether these therapies help to relieve the chronic pain for which they are used and, if so, how—is, for the most part, somewhat limited. However, according to NCCAM, the evidence base is growing, especially for CAM therapies that  many Americans use for back pain and other common kinds of pain.


The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine didn’t outright disputed the effectiveness of alternative therapy in treating chronic back pain, instead they claim that there wasn’t enough evidence, however, the evidence base is growing. Thus, it’s possible that some of these complementary and alternative medicines used for chronic back pain do help to reduce pain.

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