Seeing a chiropractor, acupuncturist, or massage therapist for back pain has become increasingly popular. For certain individuals, these methods may be beneficial, especially if you have a strong belief that one of them will work.

Each of us responds to pain (and the various methods available to relieve it) differently. Here is a brief overview of what the science is saying about specific pain control methods.

  • Spinal manipulation by either a chiropractor or an osteopathic doctor may be helpful if you have had low back pain for at least 2 - 3 weeks. Manipulation is a manual technique that moves a joint beyond the end point of its normal range of motion. Spinal manipulation refers to manipulation of the vertebrae (spinal bones).
  • Acupuncture, a technique that involves inserting extremely thin needles into "energy" points in the body, has become very popular for pain control. There are only a few small studies that have looked at the value of acupuncture for back pain specifically. At this point, it is hard to draw conclusions from the research. Some individuals may benefit by using acupuncture to relieve back pain. In particular, it may be worth trying if you cannot take medications (for example, if you cannot take NSAIDs).
  • Massage therapy, especially when combined with regular exercise, can help relieve both acute and chronic low back pain. Talk to your doctor about when it is safe to try. Look for a licensed, certified massage therapist in your area. Also, most physical therapists do limited, local massage around the area of your pain.

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Acupuncture

Chiropractic Therapy

Massage

Osteopathy

Surgery

There are conditions for which surgery may be considered. These include:

  • Herniated disk
  • Narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis)
  • Sciatica
  • Degenerative or failing disks that are painful
  • Arthritis of the spine
  • Instability of the spine

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When is surgery for low back pain necessary?

Review Date: 6/29/2011

Reviewed By: Andrew W. Piasecki, MD, Camden Bone and Joint, LLC, Orthopaedic Surgery/Sports Medicine, Camden, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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