The Benefits of Alternative Therapies

Comparing costs vs. benefits to both conventional back pain treatments to alternative therapies is interesting for a number of reasons. Here are some basic facts.
  • Conventional western-based therapies for back pain include diagnostic testing (e.g. blood tests, X-Ray, MRI), non-narcotic (NSAID) pain medications, physical therapy, injections, narcotic medications, and surgery. Usually, these treatments are tried in that order. All of these treatments have a background in science, and all treatments have been thoroughly tested through controlled studies. So despite the odds of success of these treatments, at least you will legitimately know your odds of a successful outcome, to some extent.
  • The majority of the costs of the treatments mentioned above will be covered if you have good private health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare. So, you won't have to go through your life savings or mortgage your house to get treated for back pain.
  • The treatments mentioned above, in the first bullet point are the treatments that are usually offered and prescribed by the primary care, orthopedic, and spine doctors that treat your back problem. And despite all the screaming and hollering going out there about how much the healthcare system "sucks", most people do like and trust the doctors charged with their care. Most patients will obediently accept the treatments prescribed to them by their doctor, and thus will choose one or more of the therapies mentioned above, initially, to treat their back pain. Typically, only after months of not receiving the desired results (back pain relief) will patients look towards alternative therapies in order treat their problem.
  • There are over 100 types of alternative and complementary therapies practiced around the world. There are about 10 types of alternative therapies that are common in the US, and should be available in your area. Some of the most common alternative and complementary therapies include myotherapy, reflexology, chiropractic, magnetic therapy, acupuncture, acupressure, Pilates, Tai Chi, Feldenkrais, and Alexander Technique.
  • When making comparisons among all the therapies, often patients must consider costs vs. benefits. Really, what are the chances that I will experience temporary or permanent complications as a result of the therapy, compared to the chances that I will experience temporary or permanent pain relief as a result of the treatment?
  • In general, Western-conventional therapies are associated with high-risk vs. high reward outcomes. This means that most western diagnostic procedures and treatments have been done for several decades, they have been well researched for proven benefits, and they do work, in a high percentage of cases. There is ample scientific and quantifiable evidence to back up the fact that these tests and treatments do work. On the other hand, there are significant side effects and risks associated with almost all these procedures, particularly back surgery. Fortunately, only a very small percentage of back pain patients will ever require back surgery.
  • In general, eastern and alternative therapies are associated with low risk vs. low reward outcomes. By and large, these treatments are not painful, and the chances of complications hover near zero percent. On the other hand, there is skepticism among the scientific community if these tests provide any more therapeutic benefits beyond the placebo effect. At least as far as the research literature goes, where systematic tests have been conducted, alternative therapies generally show little therapeutic value.


LOW REWARD OUTCOMES! That's blasphemy, says the practitioners and proponents of alternative and holistic therapies! These treatments do work, we just haven't developed the right tests to thoroughly evaluate and tests their benefits yet, or the tests that have been conducted are flawed!

Read on if you want to find out more about the benefits of alternative therapies.