Recent Research Confirms Value of Chiropractic Methods for Back Pain

Man­u­al ther­a­py is one of the most thor­ough­ly researched treat­ment meth­ods for low back pain.  Still, this is a very tricky area to study.

Here are some of the pit­falls that con­front researchers in this area:

  • What par­tic­u­lar man­u­al ther­a­py tech­niques are being test­ed?  Are they being test­ed alone or in com­bi­na­tion?
  • By what diag­nos­tic cri­te­ria are patients being select­ed?
  • Are the prac­ti­tion­ers in the study pro­vid­ing the same for­mu­la­ic treat­ment for each patient, or do they use their expe­ri­ence to deter­mine the best com­bi­na­tion of meth­ods for each per­son?
  • What out­come mea­sures are being test­ed?  Are we look­ing at pain lev­els?  Func­tion­al­i­ty? Over­all qual­i­ty of life?
  • What oth­er treat­ment inter­ven­tions can study sub­jects receive?  Are they tak­ing pain med­ica­tion?  Per­form­ing exer­cis­es?

Those of us who work day in and day out with man­u­al ther­a­py are con­fi­dent that these tech­niques offer extra­or­di­nary val­ue.  And there are many, many sci­en­tif­ic arti­cles that have been pub­lished that lend sup­port to this point of view.

But the method­olog­i­cal com­pli­ca­tions make it a chal­lenge to sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly prove what we think we know.  The dozens (if not hun­dreds) of research projects that have stud­ied the effect of man­u­al ther­a­py on low back pain are still evolv­ing the answer to these key ques­tions –

  • can man­u­al ther­a­py help peo­ple with low back pain?
  • what are the best treat­ment meth­ods?
  • how should man­u­al ther­a­py be com­bined with oth­er known treat­ment options, such as ther­a­peu­tic exer­cise?

Recent­ly, a very well designed research study was pub­lished which adds even more to our body of knowl­edge.  It real­ly com­pared apples to apples.

Two treat­ment groups were com­pared.  Both groups engaged in a ther­a­peu­tic exer­cise pro­gram known to be help­ful for those with back pain.  The dif­fer­ence between the two groups was that one group received a pro­gram of man­u­al ther­a­py care before ini­ti­at­ing their ther­a­peu­tic exer­cise pro­gram.  The con­trol group received a pro­gram of “sham” care before ini­ti­at­ing their exer­cise pro­gram.

The idea was to see if pro­vid­ing man­u­al ther­a­py helped alle­vi­ate pain and restore enough order to the spine that the patient could engage in an exer­cise pro­gram more effec­tive­ly.

The results con­firmed the val­ue of spinal mobi­liza­tion and manip­u­la­tion.  The group receiv­ing treat­ment had low­er lev­els of pain and dis­abil­i­ty dur­ing the 4–8 week treat­ment peri­od and for up to 6 months there­after.


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About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods.

His website,, provides more information about his approach.

Please contact him at or at 212-400-9663.

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