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Alternative Therapy Options for Necks, Shoulders, and Backs

Alternative therapy is treatment other than the standard treatments taught in medical schools. If you wish to avoid using standard treatments such as pain medication or surgery, seek a CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) practitioner. Complementary treatment methods are used in conjunction with traditional treatments and procedures, while alternative treatments are used in place of conventional medicine.

Talk to your general health practitioner before using alternative treatment methods exclusively. They are sometimes best used in conjunction with standard physical therapy and short-term use of painkillers, antidepressants or muscle relaxants.

What Are Some Alternative Therapy Options for Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain?

shoulder massage

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There are several alternative therapy treatments for back, neck and shoulder pain. These include yoga and tai chi which can be used alongside physical therapy. Massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care and music therapy are often used in place of chemical pain killers. Other natural remedies include meditation, balneotherapy, hypnotherapy and the Alexander technique. Finally, many people take vitamins B12 and D, magnesium, and anti-inflammatory supplements. Another alternative treatment is capsaicin cream.  

Acupuncture and Yoga

Acupuncture and yoga are the best alternative therapy methods for back pain. Other therapy methods for back pain include massage therapy, spinal manipulation, and osteopathic manipulation.

Back pain is often caused by muscular imbalances or weak muscles. Yoga poses develop strength and flexibility, particularly in the core. Research shows yoga results in reduced severity and cases of lower back pain moreso than traditional physical therapy.

Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine. It unblocks energy along the body's meridians, relieving pain, releasing neurochemicals and hormones, and sending signals to the sympathetic nervous system. For chronic back pain, go one to three times weekly for several weeks to start.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is the best alternative therapy method for neck pain. There are several types of massage therapy and they are all beneficial for nonspecific chronic and acute low back pain, particularly when paired with physical therapy. However, it is also highly beneficial for neck pain. Other benefits of massage therapy include reducing depression and anxiety associated with chronic pain and relieving stress during pregnancy.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is the best alternative therapy method for shoulder pain. It restores joint mobility by chiropractic spinal manipulation. A controlled force is manually applied to the joints to heal pain, inflammation, strains or muscle injuries. As your muscles relax, your pain subsides, and your joints no longer swell, your body is encouraged to heal itself.

Tai Chi

Tai chi is the greatest all-around therapy method for relieving pain. It is an ancient martial art focusing on slow and graceful motions and incorporates deep breathing and meditation. If you suffer from chronic muscle pain, sit in on a local class to see if you like the instructor's teaching style, then sign up for a 10-week program. To supplement your classes, get books or videos from the library or YouTube to teach you moves you can practice on your own at home.

Music Therapy

Music therapy is a complementary therapy method which releases endorphins and changes catecholamine levels, relieving your pain and reducing anxiety, depression and debilitation attributed to chronic pain. Do not use this as a stand-alone method as it treats the symptoms rather than cures the issue. It is a short-term method to help you get through your recovery process.


A great amount of our pain is derived from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Vitamin D improves the efficiency of other pain-relieving methods. It can be found in fortified milk and cereal, the sun's ultraviolet rays, and fish with small bones. Talk to your doctor about taking supplements if you have trouble getting adequate vitamin D in your diet.

Magnesium is the fourth most common mineral in your body and is a part of over 300 biochemical reactions. One of these functions is maintaining normal nerve and muscle function. Magnesium relaxes your knotted, painful muscles and treats nerve pain. Additionally, it is required for your bones and joints to absorb calcium properly. If you have joint pain, magnesium can help with this, too. Magnesium glycinate is the most bioavailable form of magnesium supplement and magnesium citrate is the most effective for lower abdominal pain caused by constipation.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in vegans and can cause a whole host of ailments. If you are experiencing pain, numbness, or tingling and do not like taking pills, ask your doctor about muscle injections, nasal gels, or sublingual tablets. Anti-inflammatory herbs and other supplements lubricate your joints so you do not experience pain when they rub together. White willow bark, when broken down by your body, produces salicylic acid, the same compound found in aspirin. Other herbs and supplements used include devil's claw for its harpagosides and glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and omega chain fatty acids.

Mind over Matter

Hypnotherapy, also known as hypnosis, is a mind-body alternative therapy method which involves entering into a deep state of concentration and relaxation. Similar to meditation, it reduces and relieves your pain. Our body feels intense pain to protect us from repeating the activity that caused the pain in the first place. By acknowledging the pain, it will go away. Meditation is also good for accepting the pain that remains.


Balneotherapy is a type of hydrotherapy which involves soak in warm or mineral water. Consult with your doctor if you have heart conditions and you wish to use balneotherapy unsupervised. You can purchase Dead Sea salts and other bath salts containing sulfur in spas, health food stores, and online.

The Alexander Technique

The Alexander technique is an effective alternative therapy method for those of us whose shoulder, back, and neck pain are caused by poor posture. Slouching causes decreased range of motion, muscle tension, and severe pain. You can learn the Alexander technique through private lessons or group classes lasting around 45 minutes each. It is an effective treatment method for anyone suffering from a limited range of motion, pain and muscle soreness or stiffness.

Capsaicin Cream

Capsaicin is an active ingredient in chili peppers which causes a burning sensation. It creates an analgesic effect by depleting neurochemicals which transmit pain. It is available online and in drug stores and health food stores. An effective dosage is 0.025% capsaicin cream applied to the painful area four times daily. Wear disposable gloves from a drug store before applying the cream and do not use near the eyes or open skin. Expect to pay between $8 and $25 for a tube or jar of this effective natural remedy.

Why Is Alternative Therapy Important?

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Alternative therapy is important because it is safe, healthy, and cost-effective. Overuse of pain medications can cause dependency, tolerance, and addiction. It is expensive, dangerous, and bad for your health. Alternative treatment methods work with conventional therapy methods such as physical therapy until your body gets well on its own and is no longer reliant on pills or shots.

Back pain causes people to visit the doctor, miss work, and work less productively. Over 80 percent of Americans suffer from low back pain and it costs the United States over $100 billion annually between missed wages and medical care. Effectively treating pain will result in lower medical bills, more wages earned, and more productivity for domestic businesses.

What Conditions Find the Most Relief from Alternative Therapies?

shoulder massage

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Alternative therapy works best for certain conditions including back pain, degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, herniated discs, neck pain, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, spinal stenosis and spondylosis. If you suffer from joint, muscle, or nerve pain, there is an alternative treatment method for you. Even psychological pain is effectively treated by natural methods.


relieving back pain

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Alternative therapy methods are cost-effective, safe, and work better than conventional methods such as physical therapy and painkillers. They may be used to replace such methods or in conjunction with them. They are effective for all sorts of pain, in particular, nerve pain, spinal pain, and shoulder pain. There is a treatment method for whatever the cause of your pain is.

If your pain is muscular, treat it with massage therapy, hydrotherapy, magnesium supplements, capsaicin cream, hypnotherapy, or meditation. If your pain is caused by weak muscles or muscular imbalances, try tai chi, yoga, or Pilates. Meditation is included in tai chi, along with deep breathing exercises which are useful for strengthening your core. The Alexander technique is another useful tool for overcoming pain using alternative therapy. A professional will show you where your posture is wrong and help you improve it.

Talk to your doctor about natural methods for treating your pain. Seek a specialist in alternative or complementary medicine to advise you of the most effective ways to use these natural therapies, so you do not risk addiction to harmful, expensive chemicals.

Back pain costs the United States over $100 billion each year in missed work and doctor's visits. While you are meeting your deductible for your health insurance provider to start picking up the bill, keep your receipts and deduct these medical expenses at tax time if it is more beneficial to you to itemize rather than take the standard deduction which is $12,000 per person through 2025.

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