Exploring the alternative treatments for back pain

Posted at 5:22 AM, May 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-18 07:21:30-04

It's one of the main reasons people see a doctor: back pain - and in the U.S., it accounts for more than 24 million visits a year.

But what are some alternative treatments? 

In the past, treatments like yoga and massages had been considered alternative or complimentary to mainstream medicine, but new research shows they may have more benefits than first thought.

For 71-year-old Thomas Sells, a typical week may include acupuncture, yoga, Tai Chi, and a couple hours with a massage therapist.

But he's not taking trips to the spa - these are treatments for his severe back pain. It had gotten so bad he could barely walk.

He was worried about the risks of opioid medication such as Vicodin or Percocet, and didn't want surgery.

"When I learned that there were alternatives, I was very willing to try them. There were positive results," said Sells. 

In a Consumer Reports survey of over 3,500 back pain sufferers, more than 80-percent of those who had tried yoga or Tai Chi, or saw a massage therapist or chiropractor said it helped them.

"The non-drug therapies, has allowed my life to have a very positive outlook. I'm very grateful," Sells said. 

The survey found that insurers are far more likely to cover prescription drugs and doctor visits than non-drug treatments like yoga.

Experts say your insurer will be more likely to cover some of these non-drug pain treatments if you get a referral from your doctor first.