Which patients see the best results with chiropractic care for back pain?

Many people find back-pain relief with chiropractic but predicting the course of recovery for each individual patient can be difficult. One patient may respond favorably within a few appointments while another may require longer periods of rehabilitation. How can doctors predict how quickly or how well patients will respond to specific treatments like chiropractic adjustments?

A recent study sought to determine predictors of improvement in patients with acute or chronic lower back pain who underwent chiropractic care. The research involved adults with low-back pain who had not received chiropractic therapy in the past 3 months. They underwent routine chiropractic treatment using a variety of methods like spinal adjustments and soft-tissue mobilization.

Patients rated their pain and disability immediately before treatment and at 1 week, 1 month, and 3 months after the initial treatment session. The most consistent predictor of long-term reduction in pain and disability was reported improvement at 1 week. Patients with either chronic or acute back pain who reported that they were "better" or "much better" 1 week after the initial visit were 4-5 times more likely to show improvement at both 1 and 3 months following the session when compared with patients who reported no improvement after 1 week. Although the patients who improved after 1 week experienced faster rates of recovery, patients in both the chronic and acute pain groups reported improvements in pain and disability at each follow-up visit.

These findings suggests that a patient's initial response to chiropractic treatments could predict their prognosis under chiropractic care.

The same research team recently conducted a study on the prognosis of neck-pain patients receiving chiropractic treatments.


Peterson CK, et al. Predictors of improvement in patients with acute and chronic low back pain undergoing chiropractic treatment. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapies 2012; doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2012.06.003. [E-pub version].