Americans are increasingly turning to complementary and alternative medicine when it comes to treating chronic pain and disease. If you’ve been suffering from ongoing neck or back pain, you may have wondered if there are alternative therapies that can help you feel better. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most common alternative treatments for spine care and discuss how they might be incorporated into your plan of care.
The goal of chiropractic treatment is to manipulate, or adjust, your spine in order to restore proper spinal alignment, thereby alleviating pain and other uncomfortable symptoms. After discussing your medical history and performing a physical exam, your chiropractor will perform specific spinal manipulations over the course of several treatment sessions. These adjustments can improve your spine mobility and decrease pressure on your spinal nerves, though ongoing maintenance treatments may be needed to help the effects persist long-term. Many chiropractors will also provide education on things such as exercise and proper posture to help keep your spine in good alignment.
Acupuncture stems from the ancient Chinese belief that there are certain points on your body that help qi, or energy, flow throughout the body. A trained acupuncturist inserts extremely thin, sterile needles into these specific points in different combinations and depths to achieve the proper flow of qi, improving your health in the process.
According to modern science, acupuncture may stimulate the release of certain chemicals and hormones by the central nervous system. These chemicals, like naturally occurring opioids and endorphins, can help decrease the sensation of pain and improve your overall feeling of well-being.
If your back or neck pain is related to soft tissue damage or muscle tension, massage may help provide relief, at least for the short term. Massage therapy can improve circulation to your muscles and tissues and reduce inflammation. Massage can be used to decrease tension in muscles, allowing for greater movement and flexibility in the targeted area.
Like acupuncture, massage is linked to the release of endorphins in your body, bringing about relaxation and uplifting your mood.
Yoga and Pilates
These two popular forms of exercise can be used as an alternative treatment for painful spine conditions. With their focus on stretching and strengthening your core, yoga and Pilates can improve your spinal alignment, stabilize your spine, and increase your flexibility. However, it’s important to find a properly certified instructor who can monitor your movements closely, so you don’t cause further injury.
How Do You Know What Alternative Spine Care Treatments Are Right for You?
Though we’ve just highlighted four of the most frequently used alternative treatments, there are many more treatment options available. And there is an even larger number of conditions that can cause spine pain to begin with. This can make it confusing to determine which alternative treatments, if any, are appropriate for you. For this reason, it’s always recommended to first discuss any potential treatments with your doctor prior to initiating anything new. In many cases, a combination of both traditional and alternative treatment measures can be safely implemented.
It’s also important to realize that while some alternative treatments can certainly bring pain relief, they don’t generally fix the cause of the pain. So, if your pain persists, or if you develop new or worsening symptoms such as numbness or weakness of your extremities, be sure to visit your doctor. Though surgery is considered a last resort, there are situations where it may be required to truly address the source of the pain. A reputable spine specialist will help guide you through the process.