Lower Back Pain: Should You See A Chiropractor?

As America is in the throes of an opioid crisis, there is an urgent need to find alternate painkillers for lower back pain. It is prevalent in 20 percent of U.S. adults aged between 20 and 59, according to a review of 28 studies. Alarmingly, since musculoskeletal disorders led by lower back pain are the second most common cause of disability worldwide that tend to recur every few weeks, more cost-effective and low-risk solutions need to be developed.

A multidisciplinary approach including consultations with chiropractors must be made available to people, a study published in JAMA last year said. The direct cost of lower back pain treatments in the year 2010 was a whopping $34 billion. However, the loss in terms of cost related to workplace productivity is much higher in U.S., which is an estimated

amount of $100 to $200 billion every year. Therefore, looking into other methods of rehabilitation is the need of the hour. 

The researchers identified one group where lower back pain is most common. It is none other than the U.S. military, where it is cited as the common reason to take leaves of absence from combat duty and seek medical intervention. Military personnel are given high-risk treatments such as opioids, spinal fusions and steroid injections. 

An article on Harvard Health Publishing, pointed out that medical experts look down on chiropractic solutions since there is no large scale research. So, the study looked into methods used by chiropractic doctors, especially spinal manipulative therapy with 750 on-duty U.S. military personnel enrolled as participants.

They were divided into three groups composed of 250 people each. They were placed in two large military medical centers located at important metropolitan areas and a smaller hospital inside military training site. A comparison on the treatments effectiveness were studied from September 28, 2012, till February 13, 2016. 

Participants received treatment for six weeks, such as physical therapy, rehabilitative exercise and other manual therapies. They were also given spinal manipulative therapy for their lower back and other regions of the body. Half of the 750 participants were placed in a group receiving usual medical care minus consultation from chiropractors, while the other half were randomly assigned into groups receiving usual medical care including 12 chiropractic treatment procedures. 

After six weeks, participants in the chiropractic care group reported less pain intensity, less disability and higher satisfaction from the treatment. There were no serious side effects since only 10 percent of the chiropractic care group reported stiffness in the joints and muscles, whereas 5 percent of the other group also reported similar issues. 

The researchers, thus proved that adding chiropractic care to rehabilitative measures could prove useful, albeit for a short period of time. The study’s conclusion said, “Chiropractic care, when added to usual medical care, resulted in moderate short-term improvements in low back pain intensity and disability in active-duty military personnel. This trial provides additional support for the inclusion of chiropractic care as a component of multidisciplinary health care for low back pain, as currently recommended in existing guidelines.”  

There are several limitations to the study, such as the time period of six weeks that is not sufficient to cure people with long-term pain. Apart from the cost differences since consulting chiropractors is much cheaper than opioids any day, the differences in the health benefits are not very big in both types of therapies.

Lower Back Pain Chiropractic care is a good addition to the usual medical care for lower back pain. Mateus Lunardi Dutra; CC by 2.0