If you visit the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange this weekend, there’s a good chance any visitor you randomly start chatting to by the otter exhibit has experienced low back pain. That’s because a study in 2001 found that 2 out of 3 adults in the United States suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives. Most acute low back pain eventually goes away on its own, but it can be a real problem for some when it comes to day-to-day function. Earlier this year, the American College of Physicians (ACP) released a report recommending that patients skip the drugs when treating back pain and look for alternative, noninvasive remedies. Now, a study from The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that the spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) often performed by chiropractors provides moderate pain relief and improvements in function for those suffering from acute low back pain.
- Published on April 11, 2017, the study, “Association of Spinal Manipulative Therapy with Clinical Benefit and Harm for Acute Low Back Pain”, analyzed 26 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) from 2011 to the present.
- Fifteen RCTs, which followed about 1,700 patients with low back pain demonstrated that SMT is associated with moderate improvements in patients’ pain ratings. Twelve of the RCTs also showed improvement in day-to-day function for their patients.
- Side effects from SMT affected more than half of the patients tested and included temporary muscle stiffness, increased pain, and headaches. However, the authors of the report said that in all the studies, no patients reported any really serious side effects.
- In an editorial released with the report, Dr. Richard A. Deyo suggests that many doctors are hesitant to refer patients to chiropractors because it is still unclear in the science community how exactly SMT relieves low back pain. However, he says out of 200 treatments for low back pain, there really is no treatment that stands out as the most effective, though this report may change that.
- This report supports the results of the ACP report from earlier this year, which urges patients to seek out non-drug, non-invasive options for treating their low back pain. These options seem to have less severe and fewer long-term side effects than pharmaceutical treatments.
The American Chiropractic Association President, David Herd, DC, said, “As the nation struggles to overcome the opioid crisis, research supporting non-drug treatments for pain should give patients and health care providers confidence that there are options that help avoid the risks and dependency associated with prescription medications.” Next time the pain in your lower back flares up or you overhear a neighbor griping about their aches, we hope you’ll consider chiropractic therapy instead of turning to the medicine cabinet. The evidence suggests that chiropractic care is the more effective and safer option. You can read more about the JAMA report here and here.