Monday, 25 October 2010 13:31

Chronic Low Back Pain: Chiropractic vs. Medicine

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Chronic Low Back Pain:

Chiropractic vs. Medicine

Research Results: Chiropractic is 457% more effective

A report on the scientific literature 





As reported in 2003 by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, "If you have lower back pain, you are not alone. Nearly everyone at some point has back pain that interferes with work, routine daily activities, or recreation. Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on low back pain, the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work. Back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the United States — only headache is more common" (

They went on to report many of the causes of low back pain. " As people age, bone strength and muscle elasticity and tone tend to decrease. The discs begin to lose fluid and flexibility, which decreases their ability to cushion the vertebrae"
(National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2003,

"Pain can occur when, for example, someone lifts something too heavy or overstretches, causing a sprain, strain, or spasm in one of the muscles or ligaments in the back. If the spine becomes overly strained or compressed, a disc may rupture or bulge outward. This rupture may put pressure on one of the more than 50 nerves rooted to the spinal cord that control body movements and transmit signals from the body to the brain. When these nerve roots become compressed or irritated, back pain results"
(National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2003,

"Low back pain may reflect nerve or muscle irritation or bone lesions. Most low back pain follows injury or trauma to the back, but pain may also be caused by degenerative conditions such as arthritis or disc disease, osteoporosis or other bone diseases, viral infections, irritation to joints and discs, or congenital abnormalities in the spine. Obesity, smoking, weight gain during pregnancy, stress, poor physical condition, posture inappropriate for the activity being performed, and poor sleeping position also may contribute to low back pain. Additionally, scar tissue created when the injured back heals itself does not have the strength or flexibility of normal tissue. Buildup of scar tissue from repeated injuries eventually weakens the back and can lead to more serious injury"
(National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2003,

Chronic low back pain is where the symptoms have persisted for longer than 3 months, as reported by Bogduk in 2004, although recent studies have classified chronic low back pain as pain persisting for only 4 weeks. The duration is important from a diagnosis and prognosis perspective, where it is critical for the doctor to develop an accurate plan of care. The most important component is not the label, but a complete history being performed, including examination and subsequent testing, when indicated, to develop the right treatment plan.

Wilkey, Gregory, Byfield, & McCarthy reported in 2008 that the proportion of the population that suffers from persistent or chronic low back pain is between 8% and 33%. 13% accounts for those whose pain never goes away and the remainder fluctuate in and out of pain. They also reported that the low back pain was generally recurring, indicating that doing nothing is a poor choice.

While there are a limitless number of treatments, the National Institute of Health in the United States and the National Health Service in the United Kingdom have listed accepted treatment modalities for this very prevalent condition. While there are choices for the public, the question is what is the best treatment choice for each individual back pain sufferer? The answer has to be based on real evidence and outcome based studies offer the answer.

As mentioned ealier,
Wilkey, Gregory, Byfield, & McCarthy (2008) studied randomized clinical trials comparing chiropractic care to medical care in a pain clinic. "The treatment regimens employed by the pain clinic in this study consisted of standard pharmaceutical therapy (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, and gabapentin), facet joint injection, and soft-tissue injection. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machines were also employed. These modalities were used in isolation or in combination with any of the other treatments. Chiropractic groupsubjects followed an equally unrestricted and normal clinical treatment regimens for the treatment of [chronic low back pain] were followed. All techniques that were employed are recognized within the chiropractic profession as methods used for the treatment of [low back pain]. Many of the methods used are common to other manual therapy professions" (p. 466-467).

After 8 weeks of treatment, the 95% confidence intervals based on the raw scores showed improvement was1.99 for medicine and 9.03 for the chiropractic group. This research indicates that chiropractic is 457% more effective than medicine for chronic low back pain. To say that the medical approach doesn't have a place in healthcare would be inaccurate and irresponsible, but based upon evidenced based outcome studies, research concludes that for chronic low back pain, the path is chiropractic first and drugs 457% second. Chiropractic doctors are trained to determine the cause of the injury and are expert at formulating an accurate and effective diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan. The cornerstone of that plan is the chiropractic adjustment.

These studies along with many others conclude that a drug-free approach of chiropractic care is the best solutions for patients with chronic low back pain. To find a qualified doctor of chiropractic near you go to the US Chiropractic Directory at and search your state.



1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2003, July). Low Back Pain Fact Sheet. Retrieved from

2. Bogduk, N. (2004). Management of chronic low back pain. The Medical Journal of Australia, 180(2), 79-83.Retrieved from


3. Wilkey, A., Gregory M., Byfield, D., & McCarthy, P. W. (2008). A comparison between chiropractic management and pain clinic management for chronic low-back pain in a national health service outpatient clinic. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(5), 465-473.

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