Combining Chiropractic and Medical Care Improves Back Pain Treatment

A combination of chiropractic and standard medical care for back pain is better than medical care alone, according to new research from the journal Spine.

Chiropractic has been shown to reduce back pain, but few studies have examined the effects of integrating chiropractic into standard care for back pain, particularly in military personnel.

To fill this gap in knowledge, researchers from the Palmer College of Chiropractic compared treatment approaches in 91 military personnel with back pain between the ages 18-35 years. All the participants received standard medical care (SMC) for back pain, but half also received additional treatments of chiropractic manipulative therapy (CMT).

While both groups improved, the patients receiving standard care combined with chiropractic had significantly better outcomes than those receiving standard care alone.

The researchers founds that:

  • Among standard care plus chiropractic patients, 73% reported that their pain was completely gone, much better, or moderately better after treatment compared to just 17% of the SMC group.
  • Average pain scores were significantly lower in chiropractic patients. After two weeks, SMC plus CMT patients had an average pain score of 3.9 out of 10 compared to SMC patients who had an average pain score of 6.1.
  • Patients treated with chiropractic adjustments had better improvements in disability scores at both the two week and four week follow-ups. At the end four weeks, the average SMC plus CMT patient had a Roland-Morris Disability score of 8 compared to SMC patients who had an average score of 12.

Although additional research is needed to confirm these results, this pilot study points to the benefits of incorporating chiropractic into the standard treatment of back pain. It also suggests that chiropractic could improve the military's current rehabilitative treatments for combat-related injuries like back pain. Earlier studies have also demonstrated how chiropractic adjustments can ease neck and back pain in veterans.


Goertz C, et al. Adding chiropractic manipulative therapy to standard medical care for patients with acute low back pain: Results from a pragmatic randomized comparative effectiveness study. Spine 2013; 38 (8): 627-634. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31827733e7.