Massage therapy and five other types of complementary health care effect “great benefit” for back-pain sufferers, according to recent research.

Back pain is the second-leading reason for ambulatory visits in the U.S. This survey aimed to explore promising CAM therapies.

Overall, 60 percent of the more than 31,000 people surveyed who had at least one CAM therapy in the last 12 months found “remarkable relief” using the top six complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modalities, the researchers noted. Those modalities included:

• Massage therapy
• Chiropractic
• Yoga/ tai chi/qi gong
• Acupuncture
• Herbal therapies
• Relaxation techniques

Chiropractic care is the most-popular CAM therapy used for back pain, with massage therapy second-most popular, at 22 percent of respondents using it..

Just 24 percent of respondents who received CAM stated that their conventional medical practitioner suggested the use of CAM for back pain. Others turned to CAM treatments because they felt “conventional medicine would not help,” when dealing with severe back pain, the press release noted.

“Perceived Benefit of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for Back Pain” was published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. Researchers looked at used data from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey to determine relationships “between the perceived helpfulness of various CAM therapies for back pain.”

The research was conduced by:
• The Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, Harvard Medical School Osher Research Center, Boston, Massachusetts

• The Department of Medicine, Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

• Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts

• The Department of Medicine, Osher Clinical Center for Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts