Plane Crash Survivor's Back Pain Healed by Chiropractor

A recent case study highlighted the efficacy of chiropractic care and flexion-distraction therapy for chronic back pain after severe personal injuries.

Cox Flexion Distraction is a low-velocity spinal adjustment procedure that is applied using a specialized table or instrument, in addition to manual contact. Trained chiropractors use flexion distraction to decrease pressure between spinal discs, increase disc height, improve range of motion, and more. Approximately 60% of chiropractors in the United States use Cox Flexion Distraction therapy in their practice.

The case study involved a 34-year-old man with nonspecific low-back pain. The patient had suffered serious injuries and lumbar fractures in a plane crash eight years prior to the study, and had undergone several back surgeries, including lumbar fusion, vertebrectomy, and cage reconstruction.

The patient then went on to suffer a lumbar disc herniation two years later. When the study began, he reported over three years of chronic low-back and hip pain, characterizing his pain as sharp, stabbing, and continuous, and rated it a 6 out of 10 on a symptom scale. He had tried exercises prescribed by a physical therapist with no improvement.

Considering his history, examination, and diagnostic imaging results, the man was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, and adjacent segment degeneration associated with his previous spinal fusion procedures.

For four weeks, a trained doctor of chiropractic treated the patient with Cox Flexion Distraction. After this short treatment period, the patient's self-reported symptoms and pain were reduced to 0 out of 10. Three months after the chiropractic treatment ended, the man, who was a dentist, reported that he was able to work full days with no pain. At nine months, he still had no pain or other symptoms.

While this case report only included one patient, it shows a remarkable success in using chiropractic flexion distraction to treat adjacent segment degeneration. The patient was able to resume his work and lifestyle activities without resorting to further surgeries. Previous research has also shown the procedure to be effective for relieving sciatica after failed back surgery.


Greenwood D. Improvement in chronic low back pain in an aviation crash survivor with adjacent segment disease following flexion distraction therapy: a case study. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine 2012; 11(4): 300-305. doi: 10.1016/j.jcm.2012.07.002.