Indigenous healers' explanations of low back pain and its relief

Pathophysiology. 2005 Dec;12(4):313-6. doi: 10.1016/j.pathophys.2005.09.009. Epub 2005 Oct 24.


Significant number of Finns consults annually indigenous healers for their low back pain (LBP). Bone setting is the most vital traditional Finnish mobilization treatment of LBP. In the present study we have clarified healers' believes on the pathophysiology of back pain and observed them at work to clarify the effectiveness of treatment by medical check-up and by interviewing the patients who also compared the benefits of this method with their previous other treatments such as drugs, exercise and physiotherapy.

Study design: Two of the oldest bone setters participated in the study. In the patient follow-up they treated 35 consecutive chronic LBP subjects. A medical check-up of the patients was done before and after their treatments. After 7 months mean follow-up time patients replied by using questionnaires and evaluated the effectiveness of the method.

Results: The indigenous bone setters told that they followed the hundreds of years old tradition. The healers explained that the back pain was due to difference in the leg lengths and this was reflected in the pelvic and spinal asymmetry as well as increased muscle tension. After the sessions the subjects reported relaxation and clear immediate pain alleviation. The patients reported in the follow-up questionnaires benefits from their LBP treatment in 28 cases out of 29 who replied after the treatment. According to physician's evaluation 27 patients (from 35 or 77%) got excellent or good result in their chronic LBP. There was no change in one case, and none got worse. Bone setting received in patients' reports better evaluation than drug treatment and physical therapy.