Harvard Health Letter

Medication-free options to treat your low back pain

News Briefs


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A small study published in March 2016 in The Journal of the American Medical Association appears to support two nondrug options for treating chronic lower back pain. Researchers found that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which includes yoga and mindfulness meditation (focusing on the moment), and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which redirects pain-related thoughts and behaviors, were better at lowering back pain than usual care (other treatments received, if any).

Researchers randomly assigned more than 300 people (average age 49) to usual care or to eight weekly sessions of either MBSR or CBT. Six months later, researchers found that 45% of both the MBSR and CBT groups had less back pain, compared with 27% of the usual-care group, and about 60% of both MBSR and CBT participants had more back function, compared with 44% of those getting usual care.