A new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association no less, found that chiropractic care is better than usual medical care for low back pain. If you are reading this blog and familiar with chiropractic care this should not be a huge shocker. Chiropractic care tends to fare better than most other care for treating lower back pain when looked at in the research. I have posted on similar studies in the past. What is unique about this study is the number and type of patients treated.
This study was done by researchers with the Palmer College of Chiropractic Center for Chiropractic Research and the US Department of Defense. The primary goal of the study was to determine what the affect was of adding chiropractic care to usual medical care in the treatment of active duty US military personnel with low back pain. This study involved 750 active duty personnel between the ages of 18 and 50. The study took place at three different locations; Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda Maryland, Naval Medical Center San Diego, and Naval Hospital Pensacola. The patients were divided into two treatment groups; the first receiving usual medical care and the second receiving usual medical care plus chiropractic care. Both treatment groups were under care for 6 weeks.
In this study usual medical care included self-care, medications, physical therapy, and pain clinic referral as recommended by the patients primary care provider. Under the patients usual care portion they might have been treated with oral pain medications, muscle relaxer medications, steroid injections, home exercises, and physical therapy. The patients who received chiropractic care also were given usual medical care treatment plus spinal manipulation and/or other therapies which includes exercise, traction, and e-stim to name a few things. Patient outcome was measured by patient pain levels, objective functional improvement scores, and patient satisfaction scores. These scores were obtained during care, at the end of the six weeks of care and at 12 weeks after care was finished.
While both groups showed improvement in pain and function the chiropractic plus usual medical care group improved in a larger degree than the usual medical group alone. This improvement was measured, by the studies authors, to be statistically significant. This statistically significant difference means it is clinically relevant. Chiropractic care in conjunction with usual medical care is superior to usual medical care alone for the treatment of low back pan. This was true both at the end of the 6 weeks of care and at the 12 week mark as well. The chiropractic group had higher satisfaction scores, indicating greater satisfaction with their care, over the usual medical care group. There were no serious adverse events noted in the chiropractic group. There were signifcant adverse events noted in the medical treatment though.
This is a great study for many reasons but one of the best things about it is the size, at 750 patients studied it is quite large for a chiropractic study. They looked at several measures, not just pain but also disability and patient satisfaction. They measured both at the end of care and at 12 weeks. From this data we can make a strong case for chiropractic care as the best care to manage lower back pain. I think there is a huge shift coming in terms of the chiropractic profession. I think that soon chiropractic will become the first line treatment for low back pain conditions. Our care gets great results, at a cost that is less than medical care, and patients are typically happier with our care than medical care. This study may prove to move us that way a bit faster.