Here is a meticulous, sensible, and readable analysis of the very best studies of back pain treatments that have ever been done: the greatest hits of back pain science.
“Analgesic effects of treatments for non-specific low back pain: a meta-analysis of placebo-controlled randomized trials”
There is a great deal of back pain science to review, but authors Machado, Kamper, Herbert, Maher and McCauley found that shockingly little of it was worth their while: just 34 acceptable studies out of a 1031 candidates, and even among those “trial quality was highly variable.” Their conclusions are derived from only the best sort of scientific experiments: not just the gold-standard of randomized and placebo-controlled tests, but carefully choosing only the “right” kind of placebos (several kinds of placebos were grounds for disqualification, because of their known potential to skew the results). They do a good job of explaining exactly how and why they picked the studies they did, and pre-emptively defending it from a couple common concerns.
The results were sad and predictable, robust evidence of absence: “The average effects of treatments … are not much greater than those of placebos.”