Yoga, tai chi and acupuncture - some of the most popular non-drug health approaches - may be effective tools for managing chronic pain conditions such as back and neck pain, osteoarthritis and migraines, new research has found.
Millions suffer from persistent pain that may not be fully relieved by medications, researchers said.
They often turn to complementary health approaches to help, yet primary care providers have lacked a robust evidence base to guide recommendations on complementary approaches as practiced and available in the US.
The study gives primary care providers - who frequently see patients with chronic pain - tools to inform decision-making on how to help manage that pain.
“For many Americans who suffer from chronic pain, medications may not completely relieve pain and can produce unwanted side effects. As a result, many people may turn to nondrug approaches to help manage their pain,” said Richard L Nahin, from the US National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
“Our goal for this study was to provide relevant, high-quality information for primary care providers and for patients who suffer from chronic pain,” said Nahin.
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The researchers reviewed 105 US-based trials, from the past 50 years, that were relevant to pain patients in the United States and met inclusion criteria.
Although the reporting of safety information was low overall, none of the clinical trials reported significant side effects due to the interventions.
The review focused on trial results on seven approaches used for one or more of five painful conditions - back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, fibromyalgia and severe headaches and migraine - and found promise in the safety and effectiveness in treating pain.
Researchers found that acupuncture and yoga help manage back pain, while tai chi was effective for osteoarthritis of the knee. They also found that massage therapy, spinal manipulation and osteopathic manipulation may provide some help for back pain, and relaxation approaches and tai chi might help people with fibromyalgia.
“These data can equip providers and patients with the information they need to have informed conversations regarding non-drug approaches for treatment of specific pain conditions,” said David Shurtleff, deputy director of NCCIH.
The research was published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.