a man with a bad back, acute lower back pain

A meta-analysis of 26 clinical trials published in JAMA found that chiropractic manipulation can ease acute lower back pain. This comes at a time that doctors are striving to reduce the numbers of pain pills they prescribe.

Spinal Manipulation for Lower Back Pain:

The authors concluded that research supports spinal manipulation for this common type of short-term back pain. Improvements in function were noted without serious side effects.

Although the benefits are modest, the research supports non-drug approaches to treating back pain. Some 35 million people visit chiropractors in a year. No doubt many of them are seeking relief for acute lower back pain.

JAMA, April 12, 2017

Other Approaches to Ease Back Pain:

A previous study showed that spinal manipulation did not help acute back pain. If you try it and are disappointed, what else can you do? Luckily, you have a range of options.

Yoga for the Back:

Several studies have determine that people who practice yoga can alleviate their lower back pain. Rather than acute lower back pain that lasts just a few days or weeks, the yoga studies selected volunteers with persistent back pain. Both individual studies (such as this one we reported in 2009) and meta-analyses (like this one from 2017) have found that yoga can be helpful. People with back pain do need to make sure their yoga instructors don’t recommend poses or stretches that could be harmful, however.

Physical Therapy:

Physical therapy is as effective as surgery in easing back pain due to lumbar stenosis. It is much less likely to cause unexpected harm, however. The American College of Physicians includes physical therapy in its list of alternatives that can be helpful for lower back pain that started recently with no obvious cause. The list also includes acupuncture, massage, heat and mild exercise.

Natural Products:

Many readers report that they get relief from their back pain by taking natural anti-inflammatory products. Boswellia, bromelain, ginger, turmeric and tart cherries all have anti-inflammatory properties. They are worth trying.


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  1. Julie
    Charlotte, NC

    I practice Vinyasa Yoga for my general health and have found it definitely is beneficial in easing some lower back pain. Since my issue is a pinched nerve, I really have to avoid or modify the back-bending poses that compress the vertebrae.

    I also get Cryotherapy treatments, which involves standing in a very cold nitrogen chamber for only 3 minutes. Many athletes use this for inflammation. I have had very good results.
    And the 3 minutes in the chamber is not that uncomfortable either.

  2. Dori

    I have been going regularly to a chiropractor for my lower back pain caused by severe spinal stenosis for more than 10 years, and they have been wonderful! I must emphasize though, I will only go to one that uses gentler methods such as electrical stimulation, an activator tool and/or the COX method. Those who use “strong arm” manual manipulation can cause problems instead of fixing them. During my last visit last week, when I was having bad back issues because I knew one of my vertebra was misaligned from sleeping in the wrong position, the heat and electrical stimulation were wonderful, and then a gentle pulling/lengthening of my spine popped it back into place and pain GONE! I love my Chiro and see him every month for maintenance. I’m 80 and he keeps me moving!

  3. Frances

    Does this help when a chiropractor has told you he cannot help me?As result I had bad surgery and was found to have degenerative bone disease. The Dr. Said the surgery was a failure since he could not put the metal strips in because the bone crumbled when he started this procedure. I am in constant pain and due to this deal with options I am limited to the medicine I can have. Does anyone have suggestions since the chiropractor says he can do nothing.

  4. kevin
    reston, va

    You forgot about surgery. I tried all of the above. I did chiropractic for years, believing the sales pitch that the manipulations would heal. With yoga, I could not get out of bed the next day. Physical therapy helped, especially after I did it on my own, a dozen times a day, thereby pulling a muscle in my back opposite from where my problem was. It worked! The new pain covered up the chronic pain. Until 3 days later, when I could not get out of bed.
    For many years, I was maxing out contributions into my Flexible Spending Account, and going through it by August. Now, post-surgery, the only substantial withdraws from my FSA are for eyeglasses. My health insurance company would have saved a lot of money if it had encouraged me to get back surgery.
    Surgery works! It’s not perfect, but it’s a great improvement. You should have mentioned it!

    • AJ

      I finally tried accupuncture for a variety of issues and it helped a great deal. I found a chiropractor who performed the treatments.

    • Marilyn

      Try to find a Pain Management Clinic. They may be able to use Radio Frequency to help you. It takes a while to actually work but it worked for me. Good luck!!

  5. John

    I have tried Chiropractic for acute low back pain and was very satisfied with the results. Pain gone after 4 treatments and have had no problems since (2 yrs.)
    I am very active athletically and am 25 years old.

  6. Cindy

    Do we know the effective, safe dosages of natural anti-inflammatories when taken in conjunction with each other? Are there some that should not be taken together?

  7. Ann

    When I suffered with lower back pain my doctor told me the only option was spinal fusion, which I do not want. I’d heard positive results about spinal decompression and decided to try it. I’m so glad I did! After a month of treatments every week, I have monthly treatments, and my back is so much better. I’m able to work in the yard with limits. I intend to continue treatment as long as I’m able to get there. It is a shame insurance does not cover this since it saves insurance companies from the cost of back surgery.

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    New York, NY

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