3 Holistic Options for Back Pain

Along with medical care and physical therapy, the following holistic techniques have become popular for back pain. While treatment time varies by patient, it typically takes multiple sessions to experience benefits.

By: Melissa Romero


Often used in addition to acupuncture and believed to stimulate blood flow and remove toxins, cupping involves applying heated glass cups to the body, creating a vacuum that pulls at the skin. Chinese-medicine specialist Njemile Jones of Alexandria’s Body in Balance Center says it’s usually used to relieve muscle tension. A session lasts 30 to 45 minutes. Cupping can leave circular marks and discoloration, which should disappear in a few days. It’s not suitable for those who have heart conditions, bleed easily, or are pregnant. Cost: $40 to $50 a session.


Pain specialists agree that acupuncture, a traditional form of Chinese medicine that involves inserting needles into points on the body to correct imbalances, is beneficial for back pain. A study last year in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that half the patients suffering from chronic back and neck pain reported improvements after acupuncture, greatly surpassing those who received placebo treatments. A session lasts 45 minutes to an hour. Cost: $90 or more a session.


Rolfing involves manipulating the muscle fascia, or connective tissue, to bring an injured body back into alignment. In a 60-to-75-minute session, a patient lies on a table while a licensed Rolfer applies gentle pressure to a specific area with the fingertips, back of the hand, elbow, or forearm. “It loosens and rearranges the connective tissue to allow the body to find a comfortable balance,” says William G. Short, a certified Rolfer in DC. Over time, the treatment can help improve range of motion and posture. At least ten sessions are recommended. Cost: $150 to $200 a session.

This article appears in the June 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.