May 25, 2010 - In the United States, back pain affects between 15% and 30% of
the population yearly and is the second leading reason for ambulatory care
Back pain is the most common reason for complementary and alternative medicine
(CAM) use in the United States, and patients with back pain have more office
visits to CAM practitioners than to primary-care physicians.
A new study by Harvard Medical School shows that, while Tai Chi and Qigong are much less popular than CChiropractic among back pain patients, for those
who did use them, their perceived benefit was comparable to that perceived by
those who used Chiropractic.
This study, published by in its May-June 2010 issue, used data from the 2002 National Health
Interview Survey (NHIS) to examine the associations between the perceived
helpfulness of various CAM therapies for back pain.
The 2002 NHIS was a nationally representative survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionís
National Center of Statistics. The Harvard researchers in this study found
enough sample data to evaluate 6 CAM modalities used for back pain:
Chiropractic, Acupuncture, massage, relaxation techniques, herbal therapy, and
Yoga/Tai Chi /Qigong.
The study found that, among these 6 most common CAM modalities
for back pain, Chiropractic was used by the most respondents, followed by
massage. Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong were evaluated as one modality, and they
together had back pain patients less than one-seventh of those of Chiropractic.
One key measurement in this study is how back patients perceived
the benefits from the CAM therapies they used. Corresponding to its high
popularity, Chiropractic had the best perceived benefits by its users. Using it
as a benchmark, the researchers found that Yoga/Tai Chi /Qigong and acupuncture
had perceived benefit by their respective users comparable to that perceived by
the users of Chiropractic.