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Are pills a pain? Yoga could help ease sore backs

Doctors say yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture and even tai chi can offer relief without a pill.

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Back pain is one of the main reasons people see a doctor.

Instead of medication, though, doctors are sometimes prescribing a different treatment. Doctors say yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture and even tai chi can offer relief without a pill.

That combination significantly helped Thomas Sells. Years ago, back problems left him nearly unable to walk.

The 71-year-old was worried about surgery and the risks of more commonly prescribed opioids for pain.

"When I learned that there were alternatives, I was very willing to try them," Sells said. "There were positive results."

A Consumer Reports survey of more than 3,500 patients found more than 80 percent tried yoga or tai chi, or saw a massage therapist or chiropractor, and said it helped.

"Traditionally, these non-drug therapies had been considered alternative or complementary to mainstream medicine," said Consumer Reports Teresa Carr. "But the truth is, we're seeing from the evidence that they work just as well, if not better."

Sells says the non-drug therapies gave him his life back.

Consumer Reports' survey found insurers are far more likely to cover prescription drugs and doctor visits, though, than non-drug treatments like yoga. The consumer advocacy groups suggests you may have a better chance at coverage if you first get a referral from your doctor.

For back pain lasting less than three months, the American College of Physicians recommends first trying heat, acupuncture, massage and spinal manipulation before resorting to medications.

Consumer Reports says that yoga and tai chi are fine for shorter-term pain if you are familiar with the moves.

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 Credits

Monica Laliberte, Reporter
Jenn Sorber Smith, Producer
Evan Matsumoto, Web Editor

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