Complementary health practices like yoga, acupuncture and tai chi are effective in relieving some pain conditions like headaches, back pain and arthritis, reports a recent study.

Pain is a feeling that indicates a problem, which in turn helps in diagnosing a condition or disease. When the underlying condition is treated, the pain subsides, but some problems like migraine and arthritis that prevail for years (chronic pain) require frequent medical assistance.

About 126 million Americans suffer from one kind of pain each year, among which 40 million people experience severe pain. Many people who don't get complete cure or relief from drugs switch to alternate health techniques like massage, yoga, acupuncture and tai chi.

While people shift toward such techniques, however, there are no clear evidences on the reliability of these approaches so far. To resolve this issue, a team of researchers conducted a study to have a clear insight on these practices and give relevant information to health care providers for guiding patients with chronic pain toward drug-free treatments.

Researchers from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health analyzed about 105 randomized controlled trials conducted within the past 50 years. According to the report published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, it was observed that no-drug health techniques provide reasonable relief to people combined with or without prescription drugs.

Investigators studied the effect of alternative techniques on pain conditions like migraine, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, headaches, back and neck pain. They found that yoga was effective against back pain and tai chi and acupuncture helped relieve osteoarthritis. Relaxation techniques gave some relief to people with migraine and severe headaches and massage therapies helped people with neck pain.

Weaker evidences also suggest that spinal manipulation, massage therapy and osteopathic manipulation may help relieve back pain and tai chi and relaxation approaches could benefit patients with fibromyalgia. Though these techniques don't promise cure for any ailment, they are safe and have no side effects like that of long-term medications.

Meanwhile, NCCIH deputy director David Shurtleff, who recommended for more research on the topic, said that the study findings have given people and healthcare providers an idea on alternative approaches.

"These data can equip providers and patients with the information they need to have informed conversations regarding non-drug approaches for treatment of specific pain conditions," said Shurtleff. "It's important that continued research explore how these approaches actually work and whether these findings apply broadly in diverse clinical settings and patient populations."

Photo: Matthew Ragan | Flickr

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