There has been an increase in the use of complementary and alternative medicine practices for the treatment of back pain

The use of alternative medicine approaches to treat back pain, or Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) as it’s now called, has risen steadily over the last 10 years.

According to the National Health Interview Survey, the use of CAM therapies for the treatment of back pain rose from 33% in 2002 to over 40% in 2007. The majority of this shift within the CAM therapies has come from the mind-body therapies, which include deep breathing, meditation, and yoga.

In this article, we provide an overview of the various CAM therapies used to treat back pain.

Alternative Medicine Approaches To Treat Back Pain

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine gives the best overview for CAM therapies.

Many Americans use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in pursuit of health and well-being. The 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which included a comprehensive survey of CAM use by Americans, showed that approximately 38 percent of adults use CAM. This fact sheet presents an overview of CAM, types of CAM, summary information on safety and regulation, the mission of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), and additional resources.

Defining CAM
Defining CAM is difficult, because the field is very broad and constantly changing. NCCAM defines CAM as a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. Conventional medicine (also called Western or allopathic medicine) is medicine as practiced by holders of M.D. (medical doctor) and D.O. (doctor of osteopathic medicine;) degrees and by allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses. The boundaries between CAM and conventional medicine are not absolute, and specific CAM practices may, over time, become widely accepted.

“Complementary medicine” refers to use of CAM together with conventional medicine, such as using acupuncture in addition to usual care to help lessen pain. Most use of CAM by Americans is complementary. “Alternative medicine” refers to use of CAM in place of conventional medicine. “Integrative medicine” (also called integrated medicine) refers to a practice that combines both conventional and CAM treatments for which there is evidence of safety and effectiveness.

Types of CAM
CAM practices are often grouped into broad categories, such as natural products, mind-body medicine, and manipulative and body-based practices. Although these categories are not formally defined, they are useful for discussing CAM practices. Some CAM practices may fit into more than one category.

Natural Products
This area of CAM includes use of a variety of herbal medicines (also known as botanicals), vitamins, minerals, and other “natural products.” Many are sold over the counter as dietary supplements. (Some uses of dietary supplements—e.g., taking a multivitamin to meet minimum daily nutritional requirements or taking calcium to promote bone health—are not thought of as CAM.)

CAM “natural products” also include probiotics—live microorganisms (usually bacteria) that are similar to microorganisms normally found in the human digestive tract and that may have beneficial effects. Probiotics are available in foods (e.g., yogurts) or as dietary supplements. They are not the same thing as prebiotics—nondigestible food ingredients that selectively stimulate the growth and/or activity of microorganisms already present in the body.

Historical note: Herbal or botanical medicines reflect some of the first attempts to improve the human condition. The personal effects of the mummified prehistoric “ice man” found in the Italian Alps in 1991 included medicinal herbs. By the Middle Ages, thousands of botanical products had been inventoried for their medicinal effects.

Current use: Interest in and use of CAM natural products have grown considerably in the past few decades. The 2007 NHIS found that 17.7 percent of American adults had used a nonvitamin/nonmineral natural product. These products were the most popular form of CAM among both adults and children. The most commonly used product among adults was fish oil/omega 3s (reported by 37.4 percent of all adults who said they used natural products); popular products for children included echinacea (37.2 percent) and fish oil/omega 3s (30.5 percent).

Mind-Body Medicine
Mind-body practices focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior, with the intent to use the mind to affect physical functioning and promote health. Many CAM practices embody this concept—in different ways. (Read the full article here)

Would you like to receive more information on alternative medicine approaches to treat back pain? We’ve put together several comprehensive Patient Guides on various alternative medicine approaches. Just click this link and we’ll make sure you get your copy today. Patients’ Guide To Alternative Medicine

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