"Our training tells us to look for supporting factors or constitutional weaknesses that can be treated as well," said Saum. "This leads to a better, more effective treatment."The treatments vary according to the types of pain and the predilections of the patient. We treat the symptoms and the cause, or 'root and branch.'"

Perhaps the most prevalent treatment in Chinese medicine is acupuncture. Acupuncture involves piercing the skin with very small needles. The needles themselves are so thin that they seldom cause a "stinging" sensation, but they are noticeable.

"Each patient has to be treated individually according to their constitution," he said.

Mainstream medical opinion is generally favorable of acupuncture, provided it is done by a trained expert. According to WebMD, many rigorous studies, including several by the National Institutes of Health, have concluded that acupuncture is effective in lessening pain.

However, the medical community has few accepted explanations for why it works.

What Works Best?

Any reputable specialist in back pain, from a chiropractor to an acupuncturist, will emphasize that different treatments work for different people.

The best approach, of course, is whatever works for you. Erin asked that we not use her last name.

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