Complementary Health Approaches

Frequently Asked Questions

25. What has research shown about complementary approaches for low back pain?

Spinal Manipulation

Overall, studies have provided good evidence that spinal manipulation is moderately effective for chronic low back pain. Spinal manipulation includes various interventions administered by osteopathic physicians, chiropractors, and physical therapists.


There is fair evidence that acupuncture is helpful in relieving chronic back pain. Current evidence suggests that factors such as expectations and beliefs of the patient and the provider, rather than acupuncture-specific effects of needling, are primarily responsible for beneficial effects of acupuncture on pain.


There is also fair evidence that massage is helpful in relieving chronic low back pain. In general, however, these effects appear to be short term.


Current research, while limited in scope, suggests that a carefully adapted set of yoga poses may reduce low back pain and improve function. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is also supporting research specifically associated with safety of this widely-used self-care practice. People with back pain should work with an experienced teacher who can help modify or avoid some yoga poses to prevent adverse effects.

Tell Your Health Care Providers

Be sure to tell your health care providers about any complementary health practice you are considering. This will help ensure coordinated, safe care.