Why Chiropractic Mobilization Works for Back Pain

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Why Chiropractic Mobilization Works for Back Pain Chiropractic mobilization can create immediate, measurable improvements in spinal function for patients with lower back pain, a new study suggests.

Spinal mobilization is a technique commonly used by chiropractors to relieve musculoskeletal pain. It involves low-velocity manipulation, movement, and stretching of the muscles and joints with the intent of increasing range of motion in the injured area. While this treatment has long been shown to ease back pain, scientists are still seeking to understand the biological mechanisms behind its beneficial effects.

Researchers from the UK were interested in measuring the immediate effects of mobilization on the spine in patients with lower back pain. Their study included 19 patients and 20 healthy volunteers who were treated with posteroanterior (PA) mobilization of the lumbar spine in three cycles during one session. The patients rated their pain before and after treatment, and researchers measured active range of motion and curvature of the lumbar spine. To calculate bending stiffness, the researchers used a statistical analysis that considers both the curvature of the spine and the loading placed on the spine during mobilization.

A single session of PA mobilization led to significant improvements in pain and stiffness. The average pain score dropped by 1.69 on the Visual Analog Scale which is considered “clinically significant.” After mobilization, the curvature of the spine increased and spinal stiffness was restored to normal levels seen in the healthy volunteers.

“This restoration of the mechanical properties of the spine may be a possible mechanism that explains the improvement in pain after manual therapy,” the researchers concluded.

These findings suggest that chiropractic spinal mobilization can immediately reduce stiffness and improve the curvature of the spine, leading to better function and reduced pain. This helps to explain how chiropractic treatments work to restore spinal health to decrease symptoms in patients with low-back pain. The research comes at the heels of a new study on the biological mechanisms behind the benefits of spinal manipulation, another common chiropractic treatment.



Shum GL, et al. The immediate effect of posteroanterior mobilization on reducing back pain and the stiffness of the lumbar spine. Archives Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2013;94(4):673-9. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2012.11.020.

Piper Lucy. Spine stiffness central to posteroanterior mobilization pain reduction. News Medical. December 18, 2012. Accessed May 21, 2013. http://www.news-medical.net/news/20121218/Spine-stiffness-central-to-posteroanterior-mobilization-pain-reduction.aspx..

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