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A Different Way to Heal?
Body on a Bench
. .
Keeping Your Spine in Line
4 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

By Jacqueline S. Mitchell

X-ray of SpineJune 4, 2002
n "Adjusting the Joints," Alan meets a number of practitioners and their patients who extol the virtues of chiropractic. Its adherents claim chiropractic -- which involves "adjusting" the bones of the spine -- can do everything from cure deafness to clear up nasal congestion. While there's no scientific evidence that spinal adjustment can cure disease, research does suggest that chiropractors can be as effective at easing back pain as conventional doctors. How can that be?
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Achy Americans

An aching back is an all-too-common complaint. Back pain will affect most Americans over the course of their lives. In any given year, nearly half of us will suffer from it. It's the most common reason that people 45 years and younger visit health care providers, and it costs the U.S. health care system $25 billion each year.

Back pain will affect most Americans over the course of their lives.


And once you've had back pain, you're all too likely to have it again. Just under half of us will relapse within one year, and many more will relapse in our lifetimes. Luckily, most of us feel better within a few weeks, and almost all of us feel better within three months. The remaining few who don't get better - who may require surgery, long-term therapies or extended time off from work - account for 75% of the cost.

Image of Poor Posture
Most low back pain is due to muscular strain, often intensified by frequent sitting and poor posture.

What's responsible for all this pain? Injuries and disc problems are notorious causes of back pain; however, the cause of the pain is unknown in roughly four out of five cases. Pulled muscles, arthritis and even depression might be the root of much of the discomfort.

"Most back pain occurs out of the usual activities of daily living," says Dr. Timothy Carey, M.D. Director of the Cecil B. Sheps Center for Health Services Research and a professor at the University of North Carolina's School of Medicine.

For this widespread discomfort, people seek a wide variety of cures, from surgery and medication to chiropractic and physical therapy. Do any of them work?
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