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Chiropractic’s Role in Decreasing Premature Death with Associated Back Pain

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Chiropractic’s Role in Decreasing Premature Death with Associated Back Pain



William J. Owens DC, DAAMLP

A report on the scientific literature      


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 in the Feb. 13 issue of The 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 more depression and physical limitations. MD Lynx on Family Medicine reported “Nearly four million people in Australia suffer from low back pain and the total cost of treatment exceeds $1 billion a year.(


When we consider mortality and the causes, most only attribute causality to the last diagnosis or pathology associated with the immediate cause of death. In recent literature, there have been studies studying the effects of long-term pain and all-causes of death inclusive of cancers and cardiovascular issues and are now considering these co-morbidities, rather than “stand-alone causes.”  


Docking et. Al (2015) reported:

 “This study confirmed previous findings regarding the relationship between pain and excess mortality. Further, we have shown that among older adults, this association is specific to disabling pain and to woman. Clinicians should be aware not only of the short-term implications of disabling back pain, but also the long-term effects.” (pg. 466)



The Family Medicine, MD Lynx reported on March 8, 2017:

New research from the Faculty of Health Sciences finds that older people with back pain have a 13 per cent higher chance of dying prematurely. The 600,000 older Australians who suffer from back pain have a 13 per cent increased risk of dying from any cause, University of Sydney research has found. Published in the European Journal of Pain, the study of 4390 Danish twins aged more than 70 years investigated whether spinal pain increased the rate of all–cause and disease–specific cardiovascular mortalityOur study found that compared to those without spinal pain, a person with spinal pain has a 13 per cent higher chance of dying every year. This is a significant finding as many people think that back pain is not life–threatening,” said senior author Associate Professor Paulo Ferreira, physiotherapy researcher from the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences.


The Family Medicine, MD Lynx also reported on March 8, 2017:

 “Medications are mostly ineffective, surgery usually does not offer a good outcome.”


It was reported byShaheed, Mahar, Williams, and McLachlin(2014) that out of the 4,336 studies they identified,concluded that,

“None of the trials evaluating [medical] advice or bed rest reported statistically and clinically important effects at any time point…The effects of advice on disability are similar to those for pain, with pooled results showing no clinical significant effect for the short and long-terms” (Shaheed, 2014, p. 5). “Pooled results from 2 studies on bed rest showed a statistically significant negative effect of bed rest in the immediate term…” (Shaheed et al., 2014,p. 10).


Shaheed et al. (2014) continued

 “There is no convincing evidence of effectiveness for any intervention available [with] OTC (over the counter drugs) or advice in the management of acute low back pain” (p. 11). The authors did report, “In the intermediate term, results from one of the studies involving referral to an allied HCP [health care provider] and reinforcement of key messages at follow-up visits showed significant effects in the intermediate and long-terms” (Shaheed et al., 2014, p. 12).


A 2005 study by DeVocht, Pickar, & Wilder concluded through objective electrodiagnostic studies (neurological testing) that 87% of chiropractic patients exhibited decreased muscle spasms. This study validates the reasoning behind the later study that people with severe muscle spasms in the low back respond well to chiropractic care and this prevents future problems and disabilities. It also dictates that care should not be delayed or ignored due to a risk of complications. The above statistic indicates that while medicine cannot conclude an accurate diagnosis in 85% of their back-pain patients, chiropractic has already helped 87% of the same population.


In a study by Leeman, Peterson, Schmid, Anklin, and Humphrys(2014), there is further successful evidence of the effects of mechanical back pain, both acute and chronic pain with chiropractic care. This study considered both herniated discs and radiculopathy or pain radiating down into the leg as a baseline for analysis. The study also considered acute and chronic lumbar herniated disc pain patients. In this study, the acute onset patient (the patient’s pain just started) reported 80% improvement at 2 weeks, 85% improvement at 1 month, and a 95% improvement at 3 months. The study went on to conclude that the patient stabilized at both the six month and one year marks following the onset of the original pain. Although one might argue that the patient would have gotten better with no treatment, it was reported that after two weeks of no treatment, only 36% of the patients felt better and at 12 weeks, up to 73% felt better. This study clearly indicates that chiropractic is a far superior solution to doing nothing and at the same time helps the patient return to his/her normal life without pain, drugs or surgery.


Again, this is an environment where research has concluded that medicine has poor choices based upon outcomes for what they label “nonspecific low back pain.” The results indicate that chiropractic has defined this “nonspecific lesion” as a “bio-neuro-mechanical lesion” also known as the chiropractic vertebral subluxation and the evidence outlined on these pages, combined with the ever-growing body of outcome studies verify that medicine can reverse this epidemic by considering chiropractors as “primary spine care providers” or the first option for referral for everything spine short of fracture, tumor or infection.


The research is starting to show the far “reaching effects of chronic low back pain and the evidence has supported that chiropractic must take a lead role in the management of this population of patients. Based upon the evidence, anything short of that is a public health risk.



  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.  Is Back Pain Killing Us? (2017) Retrieved from:
  4. Docking, R. E., Fleming, J., Brayne, C., Zhao, J., Macfarlane, G. J., & Jones, G. T. (2015). The relationship between back pain and mortality in older adults varies with disability and gender: Results from the Cambridge City over75s Cohort (CC75C) study.European Journal of Pain,19(4), 466-472.
  5. Abdel Shaheed, C., Mahar, C. G., Williams, K. A., & McLachlin, A. J. (2014). Interventions available over the counter and advice for acute low back pain: Systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Pain,15(1), 2-15.
  6. DeVocht, J. W., Pickar, J. G., & Wilder, D. G. (2005). Spinal manipulation alters electromyographic activity of paraspinal muscles: A descriptive study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics, 28(7), 465-471.
  7. Leeman, S., Peterson, C., Schmid, C., Anklin, B., Humphrys, K. (2014). Outcomes of acute and chronic patients with magnetic resonance imaging-confirmed symptomatic lumbar disc herniations receiving high-velocity, low-amplitude, spinal manipulative therapy: A prospective observational cohort study with one year follow up. Journal (3), 155-163.

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