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    Massage May Be Best Approach for Back Pain

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    "There are treatments for back pain that extend beyond traditional Western medicine," says Hirt. "If you don't find help through traditional practices, there are now scientifically documented benefits for massage. You might even consider using massage therapy first-line because there aren't any side effects. ... Hopefully, by seeing these kinds of studies, insurance companies will step forward and pay for this kind of massage, seeing that it will actually reduce costs, reduce pain, and get people back to work sooner and with fewer side effects."

    But massage isn't the only option for back pain.

    Chiropractor Ralph Templeton, DC, agrees that massage therapy is important for fast relief of back pain but says that it does not get to the root of the problem. At his clinic, they use chiropractic manipulation and also offer other supportive care to alleviate discomfort while the back heals, including massage and medication. Templeton is chairman of the board of directors of the Georgia Chiropractic Association.

    For those having trouble getting rid of back pain, Hirt recommends trying several things together for optimum benefit, like massage, medication, and acupuncture. By working with a healthcare practitioner experienced in treating back pain, you can find the best combination of available therapies based on your individual problem.

    If you'd like to visit a massage therapist for back pain, heed the advice of Marlene Cohen, a nationally certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork. She is the owner of Health to the Third Power, located in Falls Church, Va., a suburb of Washington. She sees all kinds of back-pain sufferers, and Anne Kanter is one of her satisfied customers.

    Kanter first started seeing Cohen for tight muscles in her upper back but soon learned that massage therapy could also help her recurring lower back problems. She sees Cohen about twice a month and also comes in for a visit if she feels the familiar twinges and muscles knot that are typical harbingers of more severe muscle pain.

    Cohen treats Kanter mainly with deep tissue massage, although Kanter also does some muscle strengthening exercises at home. Since she began seeing Cohen about three years ago, Kanter has not had a recurrence of the severe muscle spasms that kept her bedridden.

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