Thursday, 14 July 2016 14:16

Chiropractic Care for Neck and Low Back Pain: Evidenced Based Outcomes

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Chiropractic Care for Neck and Low Back Pain: Evidenced Based Outcomes


98.5% of chiropractic patients had their expectations exceeded



William J. Owens DC, DAAMLP

A report on the scientific literature


As the scientific, academic and reimbursement establishments further entrench in an evidenced based model, it is critical to both examine and utilize studies when treating mechanical spine patients with chiropractic care. Although there are many sects in the chiropractic profession who shun the title “mechanical spine pain,” it is universally accepted term interprofessionally for any etiology of spine pain exclusive of tumor, fracture or infection. This definition fits every licensure board’s scope of practice for chiropractic where chiropractic is licensed. 


In the United Kingdom, Field and Newell (2016) reported that back pain accounts for 4.8% of all social benefit claims with overall costs reaching $7 billion pounds or $9.35 billion US dollars. Boyles (2016) reported that “Researchers from the University of Washington, Seattle, found that the nation's dramatic rise in expenditures for the diagnosis and treatment of back and neck problems has not led to expected improvements in patient health. Their study appears in the Feb. 13 issue ofThe Journal of the American Medical Association. After adjustment for inflation, total estimated medical costs associated with back and neck pain increased by 65% between 1997 and 2005, to about $86 billion a year… Yet during the same period, patients reported more disability from back and neck pain, including moredepressionand physical limitations.


“We did not observe improvements in health outcomes commensurate with the increasing costs over time," lead researcher Brook I. Martin, MPH, and colleagues wrote. "Spine problems may offer opportunities to reduce expenditures without associated worsening of clinical outcomes." (


Although it has been widely reported that expenditures a decade later has far exceeded the 2005 figure, the opioid epidemic, in part from musculoskeletal etiology is another example WebMD’s reporting on the American Medical Association’s finding of increased disability from neck and back pain inclusive of depression and physical limitations. The variable therefore is not predicated on financial expenditures, but treatment paradigms that work and have been verified in an evidenced based environment. 


Clinicians should always be striving to offer the best care at the lowest cost available. Carriers should always strive to fulfill their contractual obligation of providing necessary care delivered in a usual and customary manner while preventing overutilization through built-in safeguards. With doctors managing their patient’s conditions, there are two major parameters that are utilized, best medical practice also known as “experience” and evidence-based practice or that which has only been concluded in the medical literature. Both have a strong place in the healthcare delivery and reimbursement systems.  

"A best practiceis a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark. In addition, a "best" practice can evolve to become better as improvements are discovered. These are procedures in healthcare that are taught in schools, internships and residencies and are considered the “standard” by which procedures are followed. These practices are based on clinical experience and rely heavily on time-tested approaches. Surprisingly, most of the best medical practice care paths are not published in the peer-reviewed indexed literature. This is due to many factors, but the most obvious are applications of financial resources to “new” discoveries and the simple fact that the clinical arena is adequate to monitor and adjust these practices in a timely manner for practice to keep up with the literature that follows. 


Evidence-based practice(EBP) is an interdisciplinary approach to clinical practice that has gained ground following its formal introduction in 1992. It started inmedicineasevidence-based medicine (EBM) and spread to other fields such as dentistry, nursing, psychology,

education, library and information science and other fields. Its basic principles are that all practical decisions made should 1) be based on research studies and 2) that these research studies are selected and interpreted according to some specific norms characteristic for EBP. Typically, such norms disregardtheoretical studiesandqualitative studiesand considerquantitative studiesaccording to a narrow set of criteria of what counts as evidence.



"Evidence-based behavioral practice(EBBP) entails making decisions about how to promote health or provide care by integrating the best available evidence with practitioner expertise and other resources, and with the characteristics, state, needs, values and preferences of those who will be affected. This is done in a manner that is compatible with the environmental and organizational context. Evidence is comprised of research findings derived from the systematic collection of data through observation and experiment and the formulation of questions and testing of hypotheses" (Evidence-Based Practice,


This highly-debated topic of evidence-based vs. best practice has valid issues on each side, but putting them together as a hybrid would allow them to thrive in both a healthcare delivery and reimbursement system; all sides would win. This would allow advances in healthcare to save more lives, increase the quality of life and at the same time, offer enough safeguards to prevent abuse to payors. A one-sided approach would tip the scales to either the provider/patients or the payors.

Fields and Newell (2016) studied 2 groups of patients, those treated in private practices and the second in the United Kingdom’s funded National Health Service clinics. For this report, I will focus on the Government funded National Health Service statistics. The evidence sought was the satisfaction of patients with both neck and low back pain who underwent chiropractic care and in this report it satisfies both paradigms of “Best Practice and Evidenced Based Practice” models. They reported that 98.5% of neck and low back pain “patients were more likely to have had their expectations exceeded” (pg. 57) under chiropractic care.



In a healthcare environment, where overspending is both not the solution and problematic by creating iatrogenic issues in the form of opioid addiction and unresolved biomechanical failures leading to premature long-term musculoskeletal degenerative Fields and Newell have simply asked the patients, have your needs been met or exceeded. Not to diminish studies on the why or how come, patient satisfaction in an evidenced based outcome study that verifies it works with a drug-free option.



As with many of our articles from here forward, I would like to leave you with a last and seemingly unrelated statement.  I felt it was important to add this at the end since many of our critics negatively portray the safety of chiropractic care.  This statement shall put that to rest leaving only personal biases left standing. Whedon, Mackenzie, Phillips, and Lurie (2015) based their study on 6,669,603 subjects and after the unqualified subjects had been removed from the study, the total patient number accounted for 24,068,808 office visits. They concluded, “No mechanism by which SM [spinal manipulation] induces injury into normal healthy tissues has been identified”(Whedon et al., 2015, p. 5). This study supersedes all the rhetoric about chiropractic and stroke and renders an outcome assessment to help guide the triage pattern of mechanical spine patients.



  1. Field J., Newell D. (2016) Clinical Outcomes In a Large Cohort of Musculoskeletal Patients Undergoing Chiropractic Care In the United Kingdom: A Comparison of Self and National Health Service Referral Routes, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 39(1), pgs. 54-62
  2. Boyles S., $86 Billion Spent on Back, Neck Pain, WebMD (2016) Retrieved from:
  3. Best Practice. (2016). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from
  4. Evidence-Based Practice. (2016). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from
  5. Whedon, J. M., Mackenzie, T. A., Phillips, R. B., & Lurie, J. D. (2015). Risk of traumatic injury associated with chiropractic spinal manipulation in Medicare Part B beneficiaries aged 66-69 years. Spine, 40(4), 264-270.

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