"Handy" relief for your aching back

You reach down to tie your shoes, lift your grocery bag, or pick up something you dropped... but each stretch of your back muscles feels like a stab to your spine.

When you've got low back pain, every "reach" becomes an "ouch"!

Backaches are one of the most head-scratching complaints to treat because they can be caused by so many complex issues, from muscle pulls to inflammation.

Used to be, the first line of treatment was pain meds -- but now conventional and integrative medicine agree that those drugs just don't work on back pain.

And they carry some pretty hefty risks.

But according to a new study, you don't need to pop a pill to turn your "ow" into an "ahhhh" -- because there's a natural way to find relief from low back pain without drugs.

All you need are some "helping hands"!

The study out of Indiana University found that a course of massage therapy was effective at improving low back pain.

About 100 patients with low back pain were referred by a physician to a massage therapist, who provided a series of ten massages at no cost to the patients.

Of course, massage doesn't come free in the "real world" -- but, aside from that, the study was the first of its kind to mimic the way people seek massage therapy in an actual clinical treatment environment.

After three months, more than 50 percent of those who received the massages experienced meaningful improvements in their condition -- and the benefits largely held true after six months, too, even though they'd stopped receiving treatments.

What's more is that the older folks in the study -- Baby Boomers and beyond -- experienced the MOST improvement!

And there was one detail about the study that I found particularly interesting but I would expect the mainstream media to skip rght over: Patients who were taking opioids while they received their massages were TWO TIMES less likely to get relief, compared to those who weren't taking them.

To me, that's just further proof that pain meds not only don't help, but may even INTERFERE with the healing process.

So, before you reach for that prescription bottle, try some massage therapy.

A licensed massage therapist can work with you on the right kind of massages for you.

Now, massage therapy is not widely covered by medical insurance, so if it's too pricey for you -- or just not your cup of tea -- the American College of Physicians recommends other natural therapies for back pain, too.

Exercise therapy, acupuncture, yoga, tai chi, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and guided relaxation techniques are all drug-free treatments that will help work out that painful kink.