Most of us are quick to reach for the medicine cabinet at the first sign of aches and pain, but a new meta-review suggests that we should consider non-drug approaches to pain relief. The report found that complementary health practices, such as yoga, tai chi, and acupuncture are also highly effective tool for managing many common pain conditions.

According to a new review, conducted by researchers from National Institute of Health and National Center For Complementary And Integrative Health, acupuncture and yoga are effective in treating back pain, acupuncture and tai chi are effective for treating osteoarthritis of the knee, massage therapy is effective in addressing neck pain with adequate doses and for short-term benefit, and relaxation techniques are effective in treating severe headaches and migraine. What’s more, none of the treatments were associated with any significant side effects, which is more than most OTC medications can boost.

In addition, the researchers also found that massage therapy, spinal manipulation, and osteopathic manipulation may provide some help for back pain, and relaxation approaches and tai chi might help people with fibromyalgia, although the evidence for these associations was much weaker.

"For many Americans who suffer from chronic pain, medications may not completely relieve pain and can produce unwanted side effects. As a result, many people may turn to nondrug approaches to help manage their pain," said Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., NCCIH's lead epidemiologist and lead author of the analysis in a recent statement .

The review involved data from 105 U.S. based randomized trials conducted over the past 50 years. The review focused on trial results on seven approaches used for one or more of five painful conditions—back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, fibromyalgia, and severe headaches and migraine

The team hope their findings will help to “provide relevant, high-quality information” for both doctors and patients to better understand available treatment options for chronic pain.

Source: Nahin RL, Boineau R, Khalsa PS, Stussman BJ, Weber WJ. Evidence-based evaluation of complementary health approaches for pain management in the United States. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2016

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