Low back pain has many causes. The most common is an acute strain of the muscles and ligaments of the spine. Acute low back pain often starts quickly and is the result of an injury. Most people improve within 2 or 3 weeks. Chronic back pain may happen slowly. Its cause is more complex and harder to find. The recovery also takes longer. Both types of pain are common and may impact daily tasks.
Standard treatments include over-the-counter and prescription medications, physical therapy, and waiting for the pain to go away. Some patients seek alternative medicine treatments to help manage pain when standard treatments aren’t working. Alternative treatment may help manage symptoms or prevent future episodes of pain.
Since most cases of acute low back pain resolve on their own, the following therapies focus primarily on natural therapies for chronic low back pain.
- Acupuncture is an ancient technique of traditional Chinese Medicine that involves inserting fine needles at specific points to improve the flow of Qi (a form of “vital energy”). It may be more effective than standard treatment alone for low back pain and function. A1, A3, 79, A2, A4, C3, B7
- Chiropractic involves a variety of techniques aimed at realigning the joints of the spine and increasing their pain-free range of motion. The most common technique, controlled pressure, is applied to individual spinal joints. Spinal manipulation may reduce back pain and improve function, but its effectiveness may be similar to that of other standard and non-standard therapies .B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, B7
- Osteopathic Manipulation involves soft tissue stretching, spinal mobilization, and other techniques aimed at relaxing muscles and improving range of motion. It may be more effective than some standard treatments for low back pain. E1, E2. E4, E3
The following herbs and supplements may be effective in reducing back pain:
- White willow bark (Note: White willow bark contains salicin, which is chemically related to aspirin. It may cause problems when used with common over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen.) I3, I5
- Topical capsaicin I2, I5
- Comfrey J1, I5
- Devil's Claw I1, I5
The following alternative therapies may be effective in reducing back pain:
Possibly Not Effective
- Magnet therapy K4
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
Herbs and Supplements to Be Use With Caution
Talk to your doctor about all herbs or supplements you are taking. Some may interact with your treatment plan or health conditions. One supplement discussed here has certain concerns such as:
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REFA3 Yuan J, Purepong N, Kerr DP, et al. Effectiveness of acupuncture for low back pain: a systematic review. Spine. 2008;33:E887-900.
REFA4 Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, AVins AL, et al. A randomized trial comparing acupuncture, simulated acupuncture, and usual care for chronic low back pain. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169:858-866.
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