Back pain: can holistic therapies really help? Back pain strikes just about everybody at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, it is often the case that conventional medicine can offer little in the way of treatment, and usually relies on a combination of rest and pain-relieving drugs. In some cases, physiotherapy is offered, but there’s usually quite a wait. While over-the-counter or prescription pain medications may offer some relief, the relief is temporary and does not treat the underlying issue or cause of pain. That’s why many frustrated back-pain sufferers end up seeking out alternative, holistic therapies in a bid to help. So, what is available in the realm of holistic therapies suitable for back pain, what do they involve, and can they really help? Osteopathy Osteopathy is a complementary system of health care using manual methods of diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of health problems. It is particularly suited to problems involving the muscles, joints and the spine, and can also have a positive impact on the body's nervous, circulatory, and lymphatic systems. Osteopathy has been shown to help with back pain. Osteopaths use touch, physical manipulation, stretching and massage to increase the mobility of joints, to relieve muscle tension, to enhance the blood and nerve supply to tissues, and to help the body’s own healing mechanisms. Some osteopathic clinics offer other supportive treatments, as well as osteopathy, to provide holistic care for their patients and speed up recovery times. Osteopaths undergo an extensive training process for 4-5 years, and are regulated by the General Osteopathic Council a governing body administering clinical and ethical guidelines. Unregistered osteopathy is illegal. Always choose an osteopath who is registered with the General Osteopathic Council. Chiropractic Chiropractic is another non-surgical and non-drug alternative therapy useful in the treatment of back pain. Chiropractic is a manual therapy used for the treatment of the musculoskeletal system (specifically the spine) and the nervous system. Chiropractors mobilise the joints in the spine through specific manual manipulations, known as ‘adjustments.’ Many studies have concluded that manual therapies commonly used by chiropractors and osteopaths are generally effective for the treatment of lower back pain and neck pain. Chiropractors, similar to osteopaths, train for 5 years, and are regulated by the General Chiropractic Council . Always choose a chiropractor who is registered with the General Chiropractic Council. Unregistered chiropractic is illegal. Acupuncture Acupuncture has been an integral part of Chinese Medicine for over 4,000 years. Research has shown that acupuncture can help back pain, and for those seeking pain relief that doesn’t involve medication, acupuncture is a popular alternative option. Traditional acupuncture is based on the belief that an energy, or "life force", flows through the body in channels called meridians. This life force is known as Qi (pronounced "chee"). It is thought that when Qi doesn't flow freely through the body, this can cause illness. Acupuncture needles are inserted into specific points along these meridians to encourage the Qi to flow freely. The modern scientific explanation of how acupuncture works is that needling specific points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain, including endorphins and other neurochemicals. These natural chemicals can change the pain experience or trigger the release of hormones that influence the body's own internal regulating system. It is important to choose an acupuncturist registered with the British Acupuncture Council. Massage Massage has been used for centuries to relieve tension, ease pain and promote healing. Massage therapy can be helpful in the treatment of neck and back pain, particularly if your pain is as a result of tight muscles. There are many different types of massage, and most offer similar benefits. Massage therapy uses a variety of techniques to manipulate the body’s muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments and joints. Always be sure to consult a massage therapist who has received proper training and discuss what type of massage is appropriate for you. Many osteopathy and chiropractic clinics offer massage therapy as part of their holistic approach to healing. Exercise When you are suffering from back pain, the last thing on your mind is exercise. But, getting the body moving is in most cases just what your body needs. There are of course some exercises that will aggravate back pain and should be avoided. High impact exercise routines probably aren’t appropriate, as they are likely to jar. Gentle walking is a better idea. The type of exercise suitable for you will depend on your condition, so it is always a good idea to consult with your health care practitioner or GP to establish what form of exercise will help your recovery. If you choose to visit an osteopath or chiropractor, they will probably prescribe exercises as part of your rehabilitation. While yoga isn’t a good idea if you are in severe pain, those with lower back soreness can benefit hugely from this form of exercise. Yoga’s focus on balance encourages the body to develop defences against the causes of back pain, which include weak abdominal and pelvic muscles, as well as a lack of flexibility in the hips. Pilates is another form of exercise that works on strengthening core muscles and thus provides support for back issues. Choosing a suitable holistic therapy What form of treatment you choose to pursue largely comes down to your own research and preferences. Recommendations are useful, so if you have a family member or friend who has benefitted from a particular therapy for the same problem, that may be worth a try. Always do your research, refer to governing bodies to find registered practitioners, and consult your GP to ensure there isn’t an underlying condition that is causing your back pain. Osteopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture are all holistic therapies that can help with back pain. About the Author: Dakota Murphey enjoys sharing her experiences of living a healthy lifestyle through her blog posts. Working as a freelance writer for a multitude of different industries, when she's not writing or cooking up a storm in her kitchen she enjoys hiking and countryside walks with her family.