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Spinal manipulation good for back pain finds review

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Spinal manipulation helps back pain.

A Cochrane review finds spinal manipulation is as effective as other treatments for relieving chronic back pain.

The researchers also say hands on chiropractic care works better for certain types of patients with chronic back pain.

In the review, 26 high studies with 6,070 participants were researched. Lead author Sidney Rubinstein, a chiropractor in private practice and a postdoctoral researcher at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam and colleagues found 9 high quality studies for inclusion.

Rubinstein said for patients without psychological issues and sciatic pain and patients with restricted back movement are especially responsive to spinal manipulation.

The reviewers write, "Spinal manipulation “appears to be no better or worse than other existing therapies for patients with chronic low-back pain."

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The overall findings showed two-thirds of patients benefit from the type of manipulation of the spine delivered by chiropractors, but some of the studies showed only "modest" improvement for back pain.

Dr. Roger Chou, a physician and researcher with Oregon Health & Science University who has studied back pain said, “Right now the best we can say is that clinicians and patients have a number of moderately effective treatment options to consider, including exercise, manipulation, acupuncture, yoga, massage, cognitive behavioral therapy and some of the analgesic medications, and that it should be a decision between the clinician and patient.'

Though the findings show spinal manipulation can help patients with chronic low back pain, Dr. Tim Carey, director of the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill notes it is just one approach among a variety of treatment options available.

The preferred option for chronic back pain relief is still exercise. Rubinstein says referral for spinal manipulation should be based on patient preference, cost, safety and medical provider choice.

Reference: Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health