Alternative health practices—including meditation and relaxation techniques, manual therapies such as massage and spinal manipulation, as well as yoga, Tai Chi, and acupuncture—show promise for contributing to the management of pain, according to research presented at the annual Scientific Meeting of the American Pain Society.

These approaches are widely used by Americans as part of management of painful conditions including headache, back or neck pain, and arthritic or other musculoskeletal pain, said Josephine Briggs, MD, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health.

“Much of health care involves helping people find solutions for tough problems like pain. I think all physicians are well aware of how difficult it is to manage chronic pain patients,” said Briggs. “For example, with back pain we see that large numbers of patients are turning to these approaches with the hope of decreasing discomfort, improving function and quality-of-life, and minimizing side effects of pharmacologic treatments.”

According to a nationwide government survey released in December 2008, approximately 38% of U.S. adults aged 18 years and older and approximately 12% of children use some form of complementary and alternative medicine.

Published studies in this field include tai chi for fibromyalgia, as well as meditation, yoga and acupuncture for low back pain.

“At NCCAM we are working to strengthen our portfolio of research on non-pharmacologic pain management, addressing both safety and efficacy” said Briggs.

[Source: American Pain Society]