Osteopathy, neural therapy, homeopathy or acupuncture: many people who suffer from back pain swear by alternative healing methods. The most important procedures at a glance.

If you are plagued by pain , you basically only want one thing: to finally live symptom-free again. And because orthodox doctors are unable to identify a specific cause for so many back ailments, a particularly large number of those affected try to achieve their goals by means of alternative healing methods. More than 40 percent of all people with chronic pain in the neck , shoulders and back around to plague have, can be treated already to the other type.

The offer corresponds to the great demand: therapists offer up to 150 different alternative healing methods. Not every method is equally good for everyone, and some can be quite expensive. If you are considering alternative medicine, it is therefore worthwhile in every respect to examine as many therapies as possible in advance.

Does it really help? Nobody really knows

All alternative therapies usually have one thing in common: They are supposed to activate the self-healing powers. The problem: There is a large gap between claimed and proven effectiveness. That means: a lot of methods have proven to be inadequately effective or there are too few high-quality scientific studies on them.

For most alternative healing methods, there is no proven probability of success that goes beyond mere chance or the so-called placebo effect. And the placebo effect means: As soon as someone believes in a cure, it occurs. The person affected is doing better, although the agent or application has no scientifically proven effect.

So whether the treatment is successful often depends on your expectations. If you are rather skeptical, the therapy will work less well than if you assume that the treatment will help you. In principle, this also applies to conventional conventional medical methods, but experience has shown that the placebo effect plays a particularly important role in alternative medicine.

Put the therapy through its paces

However, many proponents of alternative medicine find that these procedures cannot be assessed according to the same criteria as conventional treatments. Their argument: conventional medicine does not understand people as a unity of body and soul and neglects the spiritual dimension of illness and healing. In addition, the connections between the alternative therapeutic approaches are so complex that they can hardly be examined systematically.

Since conventional medicine often reaches its limits, more and more doctors and therapists are now dealing with alternative healing methods. But don’t let the abundance of options tempt you to keep trying new treatments. Most of the methods don’t seem to do any harm, but they can cost time, nerves, and money – and may end up with new disappointments.

Therefore, only allow yourself to be treated by a therapist who has discussed your symptoms with you in detail beforehand and has examined you thoroughly. They should provide you with a time-limited treatment plan, including the likely costs. And ask your health insurance company whether they will reimburse these costs.


Acupuncture is the best-known procedure in traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM for short. There are several forms of acupuncture, including traditional Chinese body acupuncture, ear, laser, and electrical stimulation acupuncture.

TCM assumes that illnesses and pain arise when the life energy Chi, which flows through the body, is blocked. By placing acupuncture needles along certain paths or so-called meridians, which connect the individual energy centers of the organism, the Chi should flow harmoniously again.

Modern acupuncture is based on twelve main meridians set up in pairs plus eight special meridians and distinguishes a total of around 700 acupuncture points at which the energy can accumulate. When your therapist pokes the thin needles into these acupuncture points, you will feel a dull pulling, it becomes warm and tingles at the puncture site, it may hurt for a moment.

Suitable for tension and wear

If your back pain is caused by signs of wear and tear or muscle tension , it makes perfect sense to try needling. However, acupuncture should always be combined with other methods. As a general rule, the needles do not work the same for everyone, and several sessions are often necessary before you can even feel the effect.

Make sure that your acupuncturist is really qualified – and can prove this with an appropriate certificate. You should clarify with him in advance how many treatments are necessary and which criteria you can use to determine whether the therapy was successful.

Risks and Side Effects

You may develop circulatory problems at the start of treatment. And if your therapist does not insert the needles precisely, blood vessels and nerves can be injured. People with blood clotting disorders, sensory disorders, skin damage at the acupuncture points, nerve disorders or acute inflammation should avoid acupuncture.

Effectiveness partly proven by studies

Scientific studies show that more than 90 percent of those treated with acute pain feel better after acupuncture. In chronic pain , the therapy is not quite as successful, but the small needles can also relieve pain here and the muscles relax. Scientists justify this, among other things, with the fact that the punctures overlay the original pain stimuli and the body releases soothing substances around the puncture site. How and why acupuncture helps against back pain, researchers have not yet been able to clarify. But it helps!

That brings it in the long run

Acupuncture is a passive treatment method: you just lie or sit there and get needles. But you do not become active yourself. Therefore, acupuncture alone cannot help you in the long term. You have to do something about your back pain as well. And exercise often helps best.


Osteopaths assume that all body structures and functions influence each other. That is, if one organ is sick, it can affect other parts of the body. Under certain circumstances, a kidney stone leads to knee pain or a stomach ulcer is released by back pain.

For osteopaths, changes in the connective tissue are to blame for many diseases and complaints. The therapist first uses her hands to check whether certain muscles are tense , whether your connective tissue is conspicuous in any way or whether your tendons are too tight. The tissue blockages located in this way are then loosened with various massage , stretching and grip techniques, which at the same time normalize the lymph flow and stimulate the self-healing powers.

Suitable for tension

If your back problems are caused by tense muscles or pathological changes in completely different parts of the body, osteopathy can help. But it is better not to rely on this method alone. And don’t expect just one session to be noticeable. An osteopathic treatment usually consists of six to twelve hours of therapy.

Risks and Side Effects

In principle there is hardly any risk. The greatest danger lies in the fact that you may only rely on osteopathy and therefore not even notice other useful treatments or only approach them with a delay.

Efficacy hardly proven by studies

So far, there is no scientific evidence that osteopathy actually affects the entire body and safely relieves back pain. However, since some studies do provide indications of positive effects, osteopathic techniques can be useful alongside other therapies. Make sure you talk to your doctor about it beforehand.

That brings it in the long run

Osteopathy is a passive treatment method: you just lie there and let yourself be massaged. But you do not become active yourself. Therefore, osteopathy cannot help you in the long term as the sole therapy. You have to do something about your back pain as well. And exercise often helps best.


Hardly any alternative healing method is as widespread as homeopathy, literally translated: similar suffering. In fact, the process developed by Samuel Hahnemann at the beginning of the 19th century is based on the attempt to combat like with like. Homeopathic drops are very dilute substances which, if given in concentrated form, could make healthy people sick. A remedy that causes a fever in a healthy person could – according to Hahnemann’s thought – be used in a highly diluted form as a remedy for fever.

The substances of homeopathic medicines are first rubbed with milk sugar, then shaken in a water-alcohol mixture. The active ingredients in the individual drops or globules, so-called globules, are dosed extremely low and can often no longer be detected chemically.

Suitable for pain

If you suffer from back pain , an attempt at therapy with homeopathic remedies can be useful. In any case, there are always successful treatments. So far, however, nobody knows exactly why. Because most active ingredients are extremely diluted, it is unlikely that the globules or drops will work as a result. Researchers attribute the positive effects of homeopathy mainly to the so-called placebo effect: because those affected believe in the remedy, it helps them. This is especially true for pain therapy.

Risks and Side Effects

There are seldom side effects with homeopathic treatments, for example the symptoms can worsen at the beginning of therapy. Homeopathic remedies usually do not negatively affect other treatment methods. However, do not just treat yourself. Be sure to see a doctor beforehand.

Efficacy hardly proven by studies

So far there is a lack of reliable scientific evidence that homeopathy actually influences the course of the disease in any way. However, some clinical studies and analyzes show that the beads and drops can relieve back pain. Therefore, from a medical point of view, there is nothing to prevent you from trying – in addition to other therapies – to cope with the excruciating tearing and stinging with homeopathic remedies.

That brings it in the long run

Homeopathy is a passive treatment method: you just swallow beads or drops. Otherwise you will not be active. Therefore homeopathy cannot help you in the long term as the sole therapy. You have to do something about your back pain as well. And exercise often helps best.

Neural therapy

Neural therapy is based on two foundations: the interference field theory and the segment theory. The interference field theory assumes that injuries, scars and pathological changes in an organ, for example inflamed tonsils or inflamed teeth , send interference impulses to healthy organs and make them sick in the long term. The segment theory is based on the fact that there are nerve connections between the organs and the skin, with each body section being assigned to a specific skin section. If a section of skin is particularly sensitive, it can be concluded that the organ belonging to it is not healthy.

The most commonly used neural therapy method is wheals: the doctor injects an anesthetic into the skin at the painful areas. The liquid forms a small bump or wheal, hence the name. Neural therapists also inject deeper into the tissue to shut down interference fields, for example in painfully hardened muscles , joints and the spinal canal .

Suitable for irritated nerves, scars or teeth

Wheals and deeper injections can help with acute back pain, for example as a result of an irritated nerve root . However, the positive effect often only lasts as long as the injected anesthetic is effective. If the therapist shuts down active interference fields such as scars or teeth with anesthetics, this can also provide relief for the back.

Risks and Side Effects

The deeper the injection, the higher the risk of undesirable effects such as inflammation, blood vessel and nerve injuries. It is very important to make sure that your doctor is qualified as a neural therapist. And of course you should get a thorough examination beforehand .

Efficacy not proven by studies

The interference field theory has just as little been scientifically proven as the remote effect of local anesthetics. To date, neural therapists have not consistently determined what an interference field, also known as a focus or focus, actually is and which diseases it can possibly trigger. Nevertheless, it has been shown in practice that wheals or injections can help with acute back pain – even if only for a short time.

That brings it in the long run

Neural therapy is a passive treatment method: you only have one injection. But you do not become active yourself. Therefore this procedure cannot help you in the long term as the sole therapy. You have to do something about your back pain as well. And exercise often helps best.

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