National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health

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6 Things You Should Know: The Science of Chronic Pain and Complementary Health Practices

  1.  As with any treatment, it is important to consider safety before using complementary health products and practices. If you are considering a complementary health practice to help manage your chronic pain, talk with your health care providers first. And get more information on NCCIH’s Web site about the safe use of complementary health products and practices.
  2.  Reviews of research on acupuncture, massage, and spinal manipulation for chronic low-back pain have found evidence that these therapies may be beneficial.
  3.  According to reviewers who have assessed the research on complementary health practices and fibromyalgia, much of the research is still preliminary, and evidence of effectiveness for the various therapies used is limited. However, research has shown that tai chi may provide a benefit to patients with fibromyalgia.
  4.  Some research has shown that acupuncture may help to reduce pain and improve joint mobility, and a small number of studies on massage and tai chi for osteoarthritis symptoms suggest that both therapies may help to reduce pain and improve the ability to walk and move.
  5.  There is some evidence that spinal manipulation may help patients suffering from chronic tension-type or neck-related headaches.
  6.  In general, there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that any complementary health practices are effective for rheumatoid arthritis, and there are safety concerns about some practices.