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Alternative Approaches to Low Back Pain

Back pain got you backed in to a corner? Alternative therapies might help you ease the pain. Part 4 of a four-part series.

Mind and Body continued...

Often, says Block, the image he uses to help a patient control pain is one of electricity. "I saw a patient today and we talked about the pain signals coming up their spine like electrical wires. When they feel pain, they'll see the wires glowing," he explains. "As they get into a relaxed, hypnotic state, they'll see the glow decrease, visualize it not flowing as intensely or rapidly, and that enables them to mute the pain."

Sometimes, it's not about getting rid of the pain but managing it through other psychological approaches. "These fall into the category of 'cognitive behavioral intervention.' You take the thoughts that go along with back pain and help the patient change the way they view their situation so that they can cope with it better," Block says. "The main thing I advise people to do is to move from seeing the pain as a condition that can be cured to a condition of living that requires them to adapt and function as best they can. It's important to use your own strength to overcome what this does to your life."

Ultimately, says the GHC's Cherkin, the choice of alternative back pain treatment is a very individual thing. "I don't think any of these approaches have been shown to be dangerous for low back pain," he says. "So it really comes down to what works for an individual patient and what's worth trying. It's clear that there's no single treatment that's effective for everybody."

Published Aug. 16, 2004.

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