Manual Therapy Eases Low-Back Pain in Active Military Personnel

Low-back pain is a common ailment among active duty military personnel. Their bodies are under constant strain, and their musculoskeletal systems are given little time to recuperate during the ongoing stress of active duty. Much time and research is spent addressing this population in an effort to design the most effective interventions for their low-back pain and disability.

A recent study compared the pain of soldiers receiving osteopathic manipulative treatment and those who did not. Researchers randomly assigned 63 soldiers in Fort Lewis, Washington, to either a group that received osteopathic manipulative treatment or a control group that was not treated with this intervention.

The group that received osteopathic manipulative treatment experienced better improvements in pain than the group who only were treated with usual care. The additional treatment reduced not just the severity, but also the duration of the participants' low-back pain. Additionally, the osteopathic group reported greater satisfaction with treatment and overall self-reported improvement.

Interestingly, the osteopathic group reported more pain that the control group when they were surveyed early on, at the second appointment of the study. Many chiropractors caution patients that manipulative treatment may include a period of readjustment, where pain may be slightly worse before the process of improvement begins.

This study provides evidence of the effectiveness of manual treatments for improving pain and functioning due to acute low-back pain. The authors of the study proposed that a osteopathic manipulative treatment protocol be adopted by the military in the treatment of low-back pain.

Studies show that chiropractic is another manual therapy effective for easing back pain in military personnel.


Cruser A, Maurer D, et al. A randomized, controlled trial of osteopathic manipulative treatment for acute low back pain in active duty military personnel. The Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy 2012; 20(1): 5-15.