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Conventional medicine and alternative medicine most often seem to be at odds with each other. However, many people — whether due to growing skepticism, skyrocketing medical costs or desperation — are opting for alternative treatments.
A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggests what many of us have suspected for a while: Conventional medicine does not have all the answers — especially when it comes to dealing with back pain.
Persistent low back pain is a common ailment affecting nearly 8 out of 10 Americans. It is incapacitating to the sufferer, as well as costly and difficult to treat.
David M. Eisenberg, M.D., and his colleagues from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston), Group Health Research Institute (Seattle), and Brown University (Providence, R.I.) compared conventional therapy alone — defined as “usual care” — to the combination of an integrated program of complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies plus usual care. They report significant differences between the two randomized patient groups in outcomes that included pain, functional status and difficulty performing routine, self-identified challenging activities.
CAM therapies were provided by a trained team of healthcare practitioners and included acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, mind-body techniques and nutritional counseling. Usual care consisted of treatments provided by subjects’ primary care physicians and typically included non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), physical therapy and bed rest as needed, education and changes in activity levels.
The study concluded that many patients may find significant relief from an individualized, multidisciplinary, team-based model of care that includes access to licensed complementary care practitioners in addition to conventional care providers.