Lower back pain is incredibly common, and it can be very expensive to treat. According to one estimate, the direct and indirect costs of chronic back pain amount to $100 billion every year in the U.S. alone.
The authors of a new study comment, “One factor explaining these enormous costs is the high rate of recurrence and chronic disability related to low-back disorders.” They estimate that ten percent of low-back pain patients account for more than 80 percent of the costs related to back pain.
Because of the huge costs of treating low-back pain, many studies have focused on prevention. One recent study examined the role of chiropractic adjustments in treating chronic lower back pain. The study involved 30 participants whose back pain had lasted at least 6 months. The study began with one treatment-free month, enabling the researchers to observe a ‘control period’ of untreated back-pain symptoms.
Following this initial period, half of the patients underwent intensive chiropractic adjustments, including 12 treatments in one month, followed by no treatments for the next nine months. The other group received the same initially intensive treatment, along with maintenance chiropractic sessions every 3 weeks for a period of nine months. At the end of this period, researchers examined both groups.
The study authors found that:
- Both groups of patients experienced a reduction in pain. Even without follow-up visits, an intensive month of chiropractic treatments reduced pain levels.
- Disability levels showed a different response. Patients who received no continuing treatment found that disability levels returned to pre-treatment levels, while those who received maintenance treatments saw continued improvements in their disability scores over the nine-month study period.
The authors conclude that their research appears to confirm the idea that low-back pain and disability are reduced following chiropractic spinal adjustments. They added,
“It also shows the positive effects of preventive chiropractic treatment in maintaining functional capacities and reducing the number and intensity of pain episodes after an acute phase of treatment. Maintenance chiropractic care involving spinal manipulation combined with other treatment modalities (exercises, pain management program) should be investigated. Such combined interventions may have a critical influence on pain, disability, and return to work.”
Descarreaux M, Blouin JS, Drolet M, Papadimitriou S, Teasdale N. Efficacy of preventive spinal manipulation for chronic low-back pain and related disabilities: a preliminary study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2004;27:509-514.