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Alternative medicine for back pain not as popular as you might think

PainSci » bibliography » Kanodia et al 2010
Tags: back pain, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, controversy, pain problems, spine, manual therapy, treatment, debunkery, mind, energy work

Four articles on PainSci cite Kanodia 2010: 1. Complete Guide to Low Back Pain2. The Complete Guide to Neck Pain & Cricks3. Does Acupuncture Work for Pain?4. Does Spinal Manipulation Work?

PainSci commentary on Kanodia 2010: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

Alternative medicine for back pain is not as popular as most people assume. I was surprised myself when a 2010 American survey found that only about 6% of the US population uses any kind of alternative therapy for their back pain: about 75% chiropractic, 20% massage therapy, a few percent acupuncture, and a few percent divided up between everything else. Still, 6% of the American population is almost 2 million people annual looking for a crack, rub, or needle poke!

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is commonly used to treat back pain, but little is known about factors associated with improvement.

METHODS: We used data from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey to examine the associations between the perceived helpfulness of various CAM therapies for back pain.

RESULTS: Approximately 6% of the US population used CAM to treat their back pain in 2002. Sixty percent of respondents who used CAM for back pain perceived a "great deal" of benefit. Using multivariable logistic regression, the factor associated with perceived benefit from CAM modalities was reporting that a reason for using CAM was that "conventional medical treatment would not help" (odds ratio [OR], 1.46; 95% CI, 1.14-1.86). The 2 factors associated with less perceived benefit from CAM modalities were fair to poor self-reported health status (OR, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.41-0.82) and referral by a conventional medical practitioner for CAM (OR, 0.7; 95% CI, 0.54-0.92). Using chiropractic as a reference, massage (OR, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.46-0.83), relaxation techniques (OR, 0.25; 95% CI, 0.14-0.45), and herbal therapy (OR, 0.3; 95% CI, 0.19-0.46) were all associated with less perceived benefit whereas those with similar perceived benefit included yoga/tai chi/qi gong (OR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.41-1.22) and acupuncture (OR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.37-1.38).

CONCLUSIONS: The majority of respondents who used CAM for back pain perceived benefit. Specific factors and therapies associated with perceived benefit warrant further investigation.

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