Alternative Treatments for Upper Back Pain

Peer Reviewed

Complementary and alternative treatments offer you several options for dealing with your upper back pain. These are alternatives to the more typical "Western" approach to medicine that generally involves medication, physical therapy, and surgery. Complementary and alternative medicine—or CAM for short—includes all forms of treatment that aren't considered part of conventional medicine right now. It includes treatments such as acupuncture and massage, and many patients report success with CAM treatment options.

Upper back pain caused by a muscle issue tends to respond well to alternative treatments, so you may want to look into:

  • AcupunctureAcupuncture or Acupressure: Developed in China, acupuncture uses very fine needles—and no medication—to treat your pain. Practitioners believe that you have an energy force called your Chi (it can also be spelled Qi, but both forms are pronounced "chee"). When this force is blocked, you can develop physical illness, such as back pain. Therefore, you need to free up your body's Chi channels, which practitioners call your meridians. Acupuncture works to restore a healthy, energetic flow of Chi.

    Acupuncture needles are almost as thin as strands of hair. Based on your symptoms and exact diagnosis, a practitioner will insert the needles; you'll most likely have multiple needles inserted during one session. The practitioner will target precise points in your body's meridians, and the needles will be left in for 20 to 40 minutes. It's been suggested that acupuncture needles cause your body to release certain neurochemicals, such as endorphins or serotonin, and they help in the healing process.

    Acupressure works along the same principles as acupuncture, except practitioners use their thumbs, fingers, and elbows to target the specific Chi points
  • Massage: A SpineUniverse survey in early 2008 showed that back pain patients are very satisfied with massage as a treatment option. It actually had the second highest patient satisfaction rating. (You can read about the survey in What Really Gets Rid of Back Pain?.)

    You should go to a certified massage therapist—ask around for a good one. You can also ask your doctor for a recommendation.

    A massage therapist uses her hands or special tools to knead and rub the painful muscles. Massage help increase blood flow (blood circulation), and an increased blood flow brings more oxygen and vital nutrients to your muscles. It also gets rid of any acids or other waste products that can build up in your muscles and cause pain.
Updated on: 02/29/16
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Drugs, Medications, and Injections for Upper Back Pain
Jason M. Highsmith, MD
This article was reviewed by Jason M. Highsmith, MD.
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Drugs, Medications, and Injections for Upper Back Pain

Drugs, medications, and injections work to control and relieve your upper back pain. Your doctor will help figure out which medication is right for you. Options include acetaminophen and muscle relaxants.
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