A review published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings reported that some alternative health approaches such as yoga, tai chi, and acupuncture, appear to be effective tools for helping patients manage common pain conditions.
There is currently a lack of evidence-based recommendations on complementary methods available for pain relief in the United States. A team of researchers from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health conducted a review of 105 U.S.-based randomized controlled trials from the past 50 years. They aimed to provide relevant, high-quality data to inform decision-making on pain management.
The review focused on study data pertaining to seven approaches used for one or more pain conditions: back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, fibromyalgia, severe headaches, and migraine. Researchers found the following approaches to demonstrate safety and efficacy for treating pain:
- Back pain: acupuncture and yoga
- Osteoarthritis of the knee: acupuncture and tai chi
- Neck pain: massage therapy (with adequate doses and for short-term benefit)
- Severe headaches and migraine: relaxation techniques
In addition, study authors found weaker evidence for massage therapy, spinal manipulation, and osteopathic manipulation in relieving back pain, and tai chi for fibromyalgia.
David Shurtleff, PhD, deputy director of NCCIH, added that more research is needed to evaluate how these approaches actually work and whether the findings are generally applicable across diverse settings and populations.
For more information visit NIH.gov.