Complementary Medicine for Chronic Back Pain

Back pain is an incredibly common problem. Over 30 million people experience low back pain in the U.S., and up to 85% of the population will have a back problem at some point in their lives. The condition is also costly: back pain is one of the most common reasons for missing work, and Americans spend tens of billions of dollars every year attempting to relieve their back pain. Conventional medicine typically treats back pain with medication, and chronic or worsening back pain may be treated with surgery. A desire to avoid or reduce prescription medications and invasive diagnostic or surgical procedures lead many sufferers to seek complementary medicine for chronic back pain. In Poway, CA, natural health practitioner Dr. Bret Mosher helps patients alleviate back pain with a functional perspective that uses safe, non-invasive therapies. To learn how Dr. Mosher can help you take control of your own health, please schedule a personal consultation.

Risk Factors for Back Pain

Back pain may be acute or chronic in nature. Acute back pain lasts six weeks or less, while chronic back pain lasts three months or more. It is often difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. A number of factors can increase the risk of back pain, including obesity, poor posture, inactivity, prolonged sitting, and psychological or emotional stress. A sedentary lifestyle is a common denominator among a large number of patients with chronic back pain.

Chronic back pain may be helped by a number of alternative treatments. These may be effective on their own, or used in addition to conventional therapies. 

Conventional Treatments

Conventional treatment plans for chronic back pain typically include pain mediation with physical therapy as an adjunct. Prescriptions for pain may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, and opioids. Unfortunately, these pharmaceuticals treat only symptoms, and the relief they provide is temporary. Importantly, painkillers always come with risks and side effects. NSAIDs increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems and may also increase blood pressure and cause gastrointestinal and kidney problems. Opioids have side effects including nausea, constipation, respiratory depression, and tolerance. They are also highly addictive. In fact, back pain is one of the main reasons that a shocking number of Americans develop an addiction to painkillers.

Alternative Treatments

Chronic back pain may be helped by a number of alternative treatments. These may be effective on their own, or used in addition to conventional therapies. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for chronic back pain focuses on acupuncture and herbal therapies. These techniques may complement chiropractic treatment, massage, and other types of therapy.


In Chinese medicine, pain is due to an obstructed flow of Qi, or obstructed flow of bodily fluids like blood and lymph. Acupuncture increases the circulation of Qi and bodily fluids, and the muscles in the affected area of the back become more relaxed. Sometimes acupuncture is combined with electrical stimulation or moxibustion (burning the herb mugwort near specific acupuncture points). Dr. Mosher is a state-licensed acupuncturist and member of the California Acupuncture Association.

Herbal Therapies

Some herbs use the same biomechanical pathways as conventional pain relievers without the negative effects of pharmaceuticals. Other herbs are prescribed to facilitate proper organ function (particularly the kidneys) and the flow of Qi and bodily fluids. Dr. Mosher is a trained herbalist who can safely prescribe herbs in correct combination without interacting with any medications you may presently be taking.

Additional modalities that help patients increase awareness of their bodies can be enormously helpful. Depending on your diagnosis, Dr. Mosher may incorporate yoga, meditation, and other appropriate mind-body practices into your treatment plan.

Learn More

If you are interested in a complementary and alternative approach to chronic back pain, it is extremely important to select a qualified provider. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Mosher, please contact us today.

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