I personally see the value of chiropractic care every day. For instance, say I see someone that has been in pain for a few weeks or months. I adjust their spine a few times, and if their back starts to stay aligned, and the pain starts to go away, I can be pretty sure that my adjustment was the cause of the relief. However, to science, these kinds of results that chiropractors see and patients feel are called anecdotal evidence, and there is not much weight given to that kind of proof. Scientists still have to ask the question: Does Chiropractic work? And, not surprisingly, more and more evidence has been coming in to say – yes, it does work!
Science likes controlled studies. The type of experiment where a large group of people are treated with a certain kind of therapy, and a control group gets a different type of therapy, or a placebo. For a long time, the only evidence we had that chiropractic worked was anecdotal, but in the past ten years or so, more and more good quality randomized studies have been published in respected medical journals that show that chiropractic works.
What the Science says
The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study in May 2018 called Effect of Usual Medical Care Plus Chiropractic Care vs Usual Medical Care Alone on Pain and Disability Among US Service Members With Low Back Pain. This study looked at 750 service members with back pain, and was designed to see what the addition of chiropractic did to the outcomes of those individuals. So, everyone in the study got medications, physical therapy, ice and heat, but the experimental group also was treated with chiropractic. The Results? There was a significant improvement in pain and disability scores in the chiropractic group, and those patients were more satisfied with their care.
Another study, this one in 2013 in the journal, Spine,was called Adding chiropractic manipulative therapy to standard medical care for patients with acute low back pain: results of a pragmatic randomized comparative effectiveness study. This one also looked at military members with lower back pain. 73% of the participants who had chiropractic care felt moderately better or their pain completely disappeared. Only 17% of those who received usual medical care had the same level of response.
The American College of Physicians also published a guideline in 2017 in the Annals of Internal Medicine called Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. In this guideline, which is used to provide evidence based recommendations for medical doctors, noninvasive spinal manipulation was recommended for chronic back pain as a first line therapy, even before NSAID medications like Ibuprofen.
Another study in 2010 in the journal Spine looked at Chiropractic vs massage for headaches that come from the neck. The article was titled Dose-Response and Efficacy of Spinal Manipulation for Chronic Cervicogenic Headache, and it showed a reduction in pain and frequency of headaches in people who were treated with chiropractic adjustments over massage or placebo.
I also found a nice summary of the evidence in the Journal of Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine from 2012 that looked at 28 different studies that evaluated chiropractic treatment for neck pain, back pain and other conditions. Their conclusion:
The best available evidence supports manipulative therapy as a reasonable option for many of these complaints.
Evidence-Based Practice and Chiropractic Care
So…Does Chiropractic work?
These are just some of the studies that have been published recently in well known medical journals. Every study I have seen, that has looked at the effectiveness of chiropractic care, has shown that chiropractic gives better outcomes than other types of care for lower back and neck pain. Patients are more satisfied, and can get back to their life quicker. More and more, it is becoming clear to science what we knew all along, that Chiropractic does work!
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