Maintenance Chiropractic for Chronic Low Back Pain

When people think of chiropractic, they immediately think of low back pain and are often surprised to find out that chiropractic can benefit many conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, rotator cuff tears, as well as hip, knee, and ankle conditions. There is also research support for manipulation (a key component of chiropractic) and its role in managing “somatovisceral” related conditions such as pneumonia, dizziness, stage 1 hypertension, PMS, asthma, colic, and bed wetting.

Research clearly shows that chiropractic manipulation out performs other forms of treatment for acute, subacute and chronic low back pain. But, the question remains, can “maintenance chiropractic” PREVENT problems down the road? Ironically, two medical doctors in August of 2011 published an article in a leading medical journal (SPINE) entitled, “Does maintained spinal manipulation therapy for chronic nonspecific low back pain result in better long-term outcome?” The study’s objective was to determine if treating chronic low back pain patients (pain >6 months) after a course of 12 treatments in the first month would do better, the same or worse if treatments were continued at 2-week intervals for an additional 9 months. They compared 3 groups of patients: 1.) 12 treatments of “sham” (placebo) manipulation over a 1-month period. 2.) 12 treatment of “real” spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) for 1 month but no treatments for the subsequent 9 months. 3.) The same as #2 but with treatments every 2 weeks over the next 9 months. To determine the differences between these 3 groups, the authors measured pain and disability scores (using questionnaires), generic health status (questionnaire), and back-specific patient satisfaction (questionnaire) at 1, 4, 7 and 10-month intervals.

The results showed that groups 2 (SMT for 1 month only) and 3 (SMT for 1 month + every 2 weeks for 9 months) had significantly lower pain and disability scores than the 1st group (sham/placebo group) at the end of the 1st month or, 12 visits. However, only group 3 (treatments were continued for 9 months at 2 week intervals) showed more improvement in pain and disability scores at 10 months. Equally important, the scores for the non-maintained group 2 patients returned to near their pre-treatment levels by month 10!

The authors concluded that not only is spinal manipulative therapy effective for chronic low back pain, but more importantly, REGULAR ADJUSTMENTS EVERY 2 WEEKS after the initial course of concentrated care (3x/week for 4 weeks) was needed, “…to obtain long-term benefit,” suggesting that, “…maintenance SM after the initial intensive manipulative therapy,” is appropriate care to obtain long-term results.

This study FINALLY supports the recommendations made by chiropractors for many years –regular adjustments are beneficial to obtain a higher quality of life, less pain and less disability!