Chiropractors may not be the best option for treating lower back pain: Study

chiropractorsHaving long term back pain can be a severe hindrance to our quality of life, making us seek any form of treatment to help ease the pain. In this modern world, there are a number of treatment options you can choose from to help treat chronic back pain, from potent painkillers to seeing a back specialist. Back pain is one of the most common health complaints, and it’s estimated that 80 percent of Americans will experience it at some point in their lives.

You would think that a doctor specializing in the musculoskeletal system would be the best course of action for treating back pain, but according to a new study review, chiropractors may only help relieve some cases of low back pain. It may be no better than taking over-the-counter pain medication.


The review in question looked at 26 clinical trials and found that only a “modest” amount of pain relief was observed by manipulating the spine. The clinical trial consisted of individuals with acute lower back pain that lasted no more than six weeks. Spinal manipulation is a common practice done by chiropractors, but it can also be performed by physical therapists and other health professionals.

It may be that most people with back pain appreciate the physical nature of the procedure, as it may cement in their minds that they are receiving treatment directed at the site of the pain. But researchers behind this new study say that spinal manipulation is no “magic bullet,” with the same or similar benefits being seen with the use of common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
However, this finding was only seen to be the case with lower back pain, and there is no real consensus on how one experiencing this type of pain can effectively remedy it. Yet, the American College of Physicians (ACP) has recently released new guidelines advising that initial treatment of lower back pain should be non-pharmaceutical in nature. Instead, it should promote methods like heat wraps, acupuncture, massage, exercise, and spinal manipulation. While only a recommendation, the researchers are perplexed as an ACP evidence review found each to have only a small to moderate benefit.

“Most acute back pain goes away on its own in a few days to weeks,” said review author Dr. Paul Shekelle, chief of general internal medicine at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. “Most treatments — whether they be NSAIDs or muscle relaxants or spinal manipulation therapy — have, on average, small effects.”

Lower back pain can be the cause of much grief, but according to the researchers, time may be the best solution. Staying active during bouts of acute back pain seems to also speed up recovery

Related: Middle back pain: Causes, symptoms, and treatment options

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.


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