Are non-drug approaches effective for common pain conditions?

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A new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings reported on a review of U.S,. Clinical Trials by scientists at the National Institute of Health that concluded some of the most popular complementary health approaches such as yoga, tai chi and acupuncture seem to be effective tools for helping to manage common pain conditions. Researchers say “For many Americans who suffer chronic pain, medications may not completely relieve pain and can produce unwanted side effects. As a result, many people may turn to nondrug approaches to help manage their pain.”

Researchers reviewed 105 U.S.-based randomized controlled trials, from the past 50 years, that were related to patients’ pain in the United States and met criteria for inclusion. No side effects due to the interventions were reported. The review of trials focused on 7 approaches   used for one or more of five painful conditions–back pain, osteoartritis, neck pain, fibromyalgia, severe headache, and migraine. The following were both safe and effective for pain management: 1) Acupuncture and yoga for back pain: 2) acupuncture and tai chi for osteoarthritis of the knee; 3) Massage therapy for neck pain with adequate doses and for shot-term benefits,; and 4) relaxation techniques for severe headache and migraine. Additional findings that were weak included massage therapy, spinal manipulation and osteopathic manipulation may provide some help for back pain, and tai chi may help people with fibromyalgia.  Researchers concluded “It is important that continued research explore hoiw these approaches actually work and whether these findings apply broadly in diverse clinical settings and patient populations.”

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