Back Pain Research


By Mha Atma S Khalsa, DC

The January/February 2008 issue of The Spine Journal, the official journal of the North American Spine Society, contains a comprehensive review of chronic lower back pain and research regarding the many treatment approaches for this single most expensive cause of pain and disability in all working-age adults.  The project leaders were Dr. Scott Haldeman of the Department of Neurology at UC Irvine, widely acknowledged as an international leader in this field, and Dr. Dimon Dagenais of the Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine at the University of Ottawa in Canada.  They criticize the “supermarket approach” to treating lower back pain, with over 200 different treatments offered to back pain sufferers trying to decide which one to choose, like wandering through the aisles of a supermarket.  These include over 60 different drugs as well as exercises, massage, physical therapy, psychological approaches, injections, and surgery, plus “alternative therapies” that include chiropractic, acupuncture, and nutrition. 

Some of the key findings of this comprehensive evaluation by these two distinguished scientists:

  • Most of the possible treatments available have little scientific evidence to support their use.
  • Most diagnostic testing—including x-rays, MRI’s, CT scans and electrodiagnostic tests—are usually unnecessary and waste a huge amount of money.
  • Spinal manipulative therapy (chiropractic adjustments) is one of the few treatments with significant scientific evidence for both effectiveness and safety in helping chronic lower back pain.
  • There are now more good scientific studies evaluating spinal manipulative therapy for chronic lower back pain than for any other treatment option, and this treatment is at least as effective and as safe as any other option available.
  • “Spinal manipulative therapy is superior to usual medical care for patient improvement.”
  • More frequent spinal manipulative therapy treatments work better than less frequent treatments for short-term pain reduction.
  • Spinal manipulative therapy gives more long-term benefits than physical therapy or home exercise.
  • Spinal manipulative therapy combined with exercise works better than either one alone.
  • Any side effects of spinal manipulative therapy are minor, temporary, and in essence there are no safety concerns.  This represents a huge advantage over drug and surgical treatments.
  • Medical doctors should find the chiropractic profession an excellent resource for referral with confidence of both acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) lower back pain patients.

The days when doctors could say that chiropractic care is not safe or not proven effective are long gone.  You might want to share this information with your medical doctor and with family and friends who need to know.