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Naturopathic Care and Low Back Pain

The Canada Post Corporation, comprised of Canada's postal service and several joint ventures, has the nation's sixth largest workforce// , the majority of who are represented by a postal workers' union. Being a postal worker entails not only the typical workforce challenges, but like nurses and mechanics, they are at higher risk for lower back pain. Canada Post reported that diagnosed musculoskeletal complaints rose from 53 percent in 2001 to 59 percent in 2003, with sharp increases in physiotherapy, chiropractic and massage care.

In an effort to establish whether naturopathic medical treatment might be of benefit to postal workers with low back pain, Canada Post and the 55,000-member Canadian Union of Postal Workers funded a joint study to be conducted by the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). The purpose of the study was to establish what, if any, effect existed between naturopathic medical treatment (using a combination of acupuncture, mind-body therapy, lifestyle and dietary counseling) and pain management and quality of life for employees with lower back pain. Neither organization had a role in the conduct or analysis of the investigation.

Methodology A total of 80 participants, primarily letter sorters, were randomly selected to enter either the naturopathic treatment (active) or control group for a 12-week period (36 completed the trial in each group). Care was administered on site at one of the Post's largest processing plants in Canada. Most participants were already on site, although some letter carriers came from surrounding depots to be seen.

Treatment for those in the naturopathic group included: (1) acupuncture once per week; (2) relaxation exercises to relax the muscles (which the patient did twice per day; once in the morning and once before bedtime); (3) lifestyle counseling (proper sleep habits and finding an enjoyable hobby); and (4) diet advice (high vegetable consumption; decreasing sugar and c
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