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Combining Mainstream, Alternative Therapies Brings Back Pain Relief

The combination appears synergistic, researchers say

THURSDAY, May 25, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Used together, conventional and complementary/alternative treatments help patients ease their low back pain better than using mainstream treatment alone, U.S. research shows.

The small study included 13 patients who received "integrated" care and six patients who received usual care. The integrative care team at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston included experts in acupuncture, chiropractic, internal medicine, massage therapy, neurology, nursing, nutritional counseling, occupational therapy, orthopedics, psychiatry/mind-body, physical therapy and rheumatology.

Over 12 weeks, the patients in the integrative care group had an average of 12.2 visits and gained significantly greater reduction in both their pain scores (0.37 per week vs. 0.14 per week) and functional status (1.11 per week vs. 0.49 per week) than the usual care group.

These promising initial results suggest that this approach to treating low back pain warrants further evaluation, the study authors said.

The findings were presented Thursday at the North American Research Conference on Complementary and Integrative Medicine in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Another study presented at the conference found that a meditation program reduced psychological distress, decreased disease activity, and decreased nonspecific inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The six-month study included 63 rheumatoid arthritis patients who received usual care or were asked to practice a meditation program at home six hours a week, in addition to remaining under the regular care of their rheumatologist and continuing to take their prescribed medications.

After two months, psychological distress was reduced by 30 percent in the meditation group and 10 percent in the control group. After six months, psychological distress was reduced by 33 percent in the meditation group and 2 percent in the control group.

Rheumatoid arthritis disease activity was not affected after two months. After six months, the meditation group had an 11 percent mean decrease in disease activity, compared with no change in the control group. Nonspecific inflammation decreased by 35 percent in the meditation group after six months, compared with an 11 percent increase in the control group.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about complementary and alternative medicine.

SOURCE: Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, news release, May 25, 2006
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