Skip to content

Pain Management Health Center

Massage, Chiropractic Top Medical Alternatives

Alternative Medicines Rated in Consumer Reports Survey
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News

June 30, 2005 -- Healing hands are the best alternative medicine, Consumer Reports readers say.

The nonprofit consumer magazine asked its readers how well alternative medicines work for what ails them. More than 34,000 readers took part.

"We asked them to rate the effectiveness of conventional and complementary treatments for their two biggest problems over the last two years," Consumer Reports Features Editor Leslie Ware tells WebMD. "They told us whether these treatments helped a lot, helped some, helped a little, or were no help at all."

The consumers' verdict:

  • Chiropractic ranked ahead of all conventional treatments for back pain.
  • Deep-tissue massage was very popular. It was particularly effective for osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia.
  • Exercise helped a wide range of conditions: back pain, allergies, respiratory problems, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, insomnia, and prostate problems.
  • Herbal remedies and dietary supplements often ranked below over-the-counter remedies, while for most conditions prescription drugs ranked at or near the top.

The survey findings appear in the August issue of Consumer Reports.

Hands-On Therapies Get Thumbs Up

"For conditions such as back pain, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia, some forms of alternative medicine did work well," Ware says. "Those were, specifically, chiropractic and deep tissue massage. So look for hands-on therapies to work well for these conditions."

That's because moderate pressure to muscles and soft tissues stimulates a cascade of biological effects, explains Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

"We are finding that moderate pressure is essential for any of the effects we see from massage," Field tells WebMD. "That may be one way chiropractic works, because typically a chiropractor applies moderate pressure. So does just about any sport that you do -- or any self-massage exercise like yoga. Anything that stimulates the body's pressure receptors will help."

Field warns that it's important to find a qualified therapist before undergoing such therapies.

"I always recommend that people go to their local massage school for a referral," she says. "And I suggest that since these treatments are expensive, that they learn the techniques themselves and teach their significant other to do it, so couples are massaging each other and parents are massaging children. Because the effects are so compelling, I recommend a regular dose, just like diet and exercise."

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

pain in brain and nerves
Top causes and how to find relief.
knee exercise
8 exercises for less knee pain.
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
chronic pain
Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
 
illustration of nerves in hand
Slideshow
lumbar spine
Slideshow
 
Woman opening window
Slideshow
Man holding handful of pills
Video
 
Woman shopping for vegetables
Slideshow
Sore feet with high heel shoes
Slideshow
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Slideshow
man with a migraine
Slideshow