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Hands-On Treatment May Help Low Back Pain

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Updated: 9/18 12:06 pm

March 19, 2013 -- People with low back pain may benefit from a hands-on treatment known as osteopathic manual therapy (OMT) more than they do from ultrasound therapy.

A new study suggests that OMT leads to short-term pain relief for these patients. During OMT an osteopath will move your muscles and joints with stretching, gentle pressure, and resistance.

Ultrasound therapy uses sound waves to increase heat within the tissue, which increases blood flow, lowers inflammation, and thus ideally lowers pain.

The study, published in Annals of Family Medicine, included more than 450 people that were split into four groups:

OMT, sham (or "fake") OMT, ultrasound, or sham ultrasound.

They were all given six treatment sessions over 8 weeks. 

After 12 weeks, half of the OMT group reported substantial improvement. Nearly two-thirds in the OMT group reported moderate improvement.

By contrast, 44% of those in the ultrasound group showed substantial improvement. Just over half reported moderate improvement.

The researchers write that these results show that ultrasound therapy was not effective in relieving low back pain. But "this study shows that OMT is [effective] for short-term pain relief when used to complement other co-treatments for chronic low back pain."

To see a version of this story for physicians, visit Medscape, the leading site for physicians and health care professionals.

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