Mind & Body

The Emotional Roots of Back Pain

Most Americans will experience back pain. One controversial doctor claims that, three times out of four, it's all in our heads.

The Emotional Roots of Back Pain
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5 proven therapies to treat pain
Only about 1 percent of back-pain patients undergo surgery each year. For chronic aches, many patients turn to alternative therapies. Anything that stimulates blood flow and oxygen delivery to the problem area is likely to help temporarily.
1 Chiropractic The patient lies on a table while a chiropractor manipulates the areas of the spine that are misaligned, restoring normal function to the spine, nerves, and muscles. A study in the British Medical Journal found 29 percent greater improvement in patients using chiropractic than in those receiving standard outpatient treatment.
2 Osteopathy This therapy uses gentler motions and manipulation than chiropractic with the goal of optimizing circulation to the affected tissues. A report in The New England Journal of Medicine found that it was as effective as standard treatments.
3 Physical therapy A therapist may select from a range of passive treatments, including ice packs and ultrasound, to help relieve back pain. Low-impact activities like stretching, walking, and swimming have a positive impact on circulation, range of motion, and aerobic fitness.
4 Vigorous exercise Doctors have designed intensive regimens to strengthen and stretch muscles that can weaken in people with chronic pain who avoid excercise for too long. One ongoing study showed that exercisers were at first in more pain than other patients who used medications and a nightly back brace to keep the back aligned during sleep--but after three weeks, they felt better than the standard-care group.
5 Massage Who doesn't love a massage? A small study at the University of Miami School of Medicine concluded that regular massages--twice a week for five weeks-reduced back pain and improved range of motion better than using progressive muscle relaxation. The massage group also slept better and had less depression and anxiety.