Given the prevalence of conditions like chronic back pain and a lack of effective treatment protocols from conventional medicine, it is important for those with chronic pain conditions to pay attention to new research into complementary and alternative medicine. These forms of treatment have not been studied as rigorously as drugs and surgical procedures, but growing interest into their mechanisms and efficacy is resulting in a larger body of literature.
Chronic back pain is thought to affect about 8% of the U.S. population. It is a leading cause of disability, resulting in significant societal costs in the form of missed work days and unemployment. A recent study sought to compare the outcomes of naturopathic treatment to a more standard approach for postal workers with chronic lower back pain. The naturopathic group received two acupuncture sessions a week
The main outcome measurements this study assessed were self-rated disability and quality of life changes. Among the secondary measures the study assessed were pain levels, use of NSAIDs, spinal range of motion and weight. The naturopathic group showed significant improvements over the control group across the board. Whereas the control group’s disability rating increased slightly at the end of the 12 week period, the naturopathic group’s rating almost halved. Mental quality of life scores decreased slightly for the control group and physical quality of life scores improved slightly, whereas the naturopathic group saw significant improvements in both areas. Full results in both text and chart form can be found at www.plosone.org.
While there is still resistance to complementary and alternative forms of medicine both in the medical and patient communities, studies like the ones above help to change this perspective. For those frustrated and let down by standard care for chronic pain, alternative medicine offers hope for cost effective treatment.