Back Pain and Chiropractic
A new research article published in the December 2010 edition of The Spine Journal, reveals some interesting information about medical treatment of back pain. This journal is one of the most important spine research journals in the world.
The study finds that after 16 weeks of care, patients who were referred to medical doctors saw almost zero improvement in their disability or back pain score. They also did not get lasting back pain relief. They were also more likely to still be taking pain drugs. They saw no benefit with added physical therapy for their back pain.
This study is the first reported randomized controlled trial comparing clinically based treatment. Chiropractic adjustments were compared to family physician directed care in the treatment of patients with acute low back pain. Chiropractic adjustments were associated with significantly greater improvement in condition specific functioning and back pain than the usual care provided by a family physician.
In the study patients were first seen by a spine physician and then randomly assigned to either a medical group or a chiropractic group. After 16 weeks the functional assessment of the medical treatment group was unchanged even if physical therapy was added in, or, even if “spinal manipulations” were performed by physical therapists or medical doctors. The study determined that although spinal manipulative therapy is administered by many different healthcare professionals, including chiropractors, osteopaths, orthopedic surgeons, family physicians, kinesiologists, naturopaths and physiotherapists, the levels of training and clinical acumen vary widely. Chiropractors have by far the most training.
The chiropractic group was the only one that showed decidedly marked improvement in function and back pain at the end of the 16 week period.
Back Pain and Chiropractic Research
The study Showed:
- After 16 weeks, 78% of the patients in the medical group were still taking narcotic pain medications on either daily or as needed basis.
- Condition specific improvement after 16 weeks clearly favored the chiropractic group with improvement of almost 3X the other group.
- The improvement was even more significant after 28 weeks.
- Including NSAIDS and manipulation/mobilization performed by physical therapists was no more effective in treating patients than family doctors who offered patients advice and acetaminophen. In fact they were shown to have “no clinically worthwhile benefit” when compared to acetaminophen and advice alone.
Despite these findings, many medical practitioners are unaware of the benefit of chiropractic care for back pain and do not refer their patients, even though the chiropractic care has been shown to be the most effective approach. With new research like this coming out all the time, it should be the standard of care for chiropractic referral to be an integral part of care for these cases.
Chiropractic is safe with major complications occurring in less than one case per million. These figures are washed aside by the extensive body of literature that describe as many as 10-20,000 fatalities produced annually by NSAIDS alone, which are a frequent prescribing course for medical practices.