Evaluating Nonsurgical Treatments for Back Problems

There are many factors that can cause back pain and it is essential to speak with a doctor to determine the right type of treatment. Often, the first step by the doctor will be to try a nonsurgical treatment, because spinal surgery, while often very effective, has a number of risks.

Like most areas of medicine, there are many different treatments available to help deal with back pain. However, they will not work for everyone and it is important to understand the potential risks and effectiveness of the treatment before starting it.

The Placebo Effect and Back Treatments

Amazingly, the mind often provides the best type of relief. The placebo effect is where a patient will receive pills from their doctor, which are said to help with pain. In reality, the pills are actually just sugar pills that have no effect on the body, but because the mind thinks they are medicine, they actually work. Many studies have been done on the placebo effect, including one recent study that used placebos to treat pain caused by wisdom teeth removal. It may sound absurd, but the placebo effect will work almost half of the time.

While your doctor isn't likely to prescribe sugar pills for your back pain, the placebo affect can apply to a host of other types of treatments. For example, herbs, massage, magnets, and new beds can all help to reduce back pain, providing the patient truly believes it will work.

As a result of the way the placebo effect works, all nonsurgical back treatments must be validate against this. This is to say, that since 40% of the time, the mind can make almost any treatment seem effective, this must be taken into account when evaluating a nonsurgical treatment. Of course, from the patients standpoint, these sorts of thoughts will effectively negate the placebo affect.

When evaluating a nonsurgical treatment to ensure the placebo effect is not skewing the results, the approximately 40% of individuals who experience the placebo effect must be taken into account. So, if only 90% of the people report good results, the treatment would probably be effective. If, on the other hand, only 50% report improvement, the placebo effect is probably playing a big role in the results.

The Healing Abilities of the Body

In addition to the placebo effect, the body itself also is often able to repair itself in ways that no medicine could. As a result of the natural healing abilities of the body, any potential nonsurgical treatment must be more effective that the body's own healing mechanisms.

In the case of evidence based medicine evaluating a nonsurgical treatment involves taking two groups, one who receives the treatment and the other who gets nothing. An effective treatment will see those who receive the treatment heal better and faster than those who do not. In this case, it is important that the treatment does a better job that the body would naturally.

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