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Low Back Pain (cont.)

Other Treatment

You can choose from a number of alternative treatments for your low back pain. Because many of these treatments are new or not yet well researched, they may not be covered by health insurance.

The following complementary treatments are often used for low back pain.

  • Massage may reduce low back pain. It is probably most effective if you also learn to do Click here to view an Actionset.exercises for your back and learn the best ways to Click here to view an Actionset.lift and move to protect your back.3
  • Spinal manipulation is likely to help chronic low back pain, but probably no more than other treatments such as physical therapy, exercise, or pain medicine.4 It is not clear whether it helps acute low back pain or not.5 Even though they differ in their training, osteopaths, chiropractors, physiatrists, and specially trained physical therapists can all do spinal manipulation. Learn more about chiropractic and spinal manipulation.
    Click here to view a Decision Point.Low Back Pain: Should I Have Spinal Manipulation?
  • Biofeedback has not been well studied as a treatment for low back pain. But recent research has not shown that biofeedback is effective for controlling low back pain.
  • Acupuncture may help reduce pain and increase the ability to be active for a short time after treatment but not any more than other treatments.6
  • Acupressure uses pressure on certain points in the body to decrease symptoms. Small studies suggest that acupressure reduces pain and allows a person to be more active.7
  • Relaxation techniques can help reduce muscle tension, stress, and depression.
  • Yoga is another way to stay active and to also get help with relaxation and managing stress. Small studies suggest that yoga classes may help people with chronic low back pain control their symptoms and stay more active.8, 9 It is not clear whether yoga is more helpful than other activity or treatment for chronic low back pain. There are different types of yoga. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist before you start a yoga program.

Here are some other treatment choices to think about:

  • Learning about your back:
    • Back school teaches you all about back care, how to stand and sit, and how to move your body in a safer way. It also teaches you how to prevent long-term back problems.
    • A pain management clinic is a place where you can learn how to cope with chronic pain. You also can get treatment there.
  • Electric currents:
    • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) gives brief pulses of electricity to nerve endings in the skin to relieve pain. Although TENS may help some people, there is no evidence that it works.
    • Spinal cord stimulation uses an electrical current to treat chronic pain. A doctor puts an electrical generator under the skin. This device sends pulses through electrodes placed in the spinal canal. There is not strong evidence that it works.10
  • Other procedures:
    • Intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET) gets rid of nerve fibers that have grown from the outer layers of the disc to the inside of the disc. There is no consistent evidence that this treatment works, and most experts do not recommend it.1
    • Nerve blocks may numb certain nerves.

Experimental treatments

New and experimental treatments are constantly being developed and offered to people who have low back pain. If you are considering such a treatment, be sure to ask your doctor for two things:

  1. The scientific evidence that shows that the treatment works and is safe.
  2. The results that your doctor has seen in his or her own practice.

Experimental treatments include:

  • Surgery to replace a ruptured or herniated disc with an artificial disc. This treatment has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Long-term studies have not been done.
  • Botulinum toxin (Botox) injection. This may relax painful muscle spasms in the low back.
  • Radiofrequency ablation of nerves. This may reduce chronic low back pain in some people by preventing pain signals from reaching the brain. It is sometimes used for pain from problems with the small joints in the spine called facet joints.
  • An intrathecal pain pump. This is a small tube inserted under the skin and deeper tissues along the midline of the back and into the spinal canal. The tube connects to a small reservoir of medicine inserted under the skin of your belly. The medicine is regularly delivered to the area of pain through the tube.
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