Complementary and alternative treatments, also called integrative therapies, offer you several options to help manage upper back pain. These are alternatives to the more typical Western approach to medicine that may involve medication, physical therapy, and surgery. These treatments include acupuncture and massage, and many patients report success with alternative treatment options.
Acupuncture 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: You should select 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.