A Comparison of Chiropractic Manipulation Methods and Usual Medical Care for Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial

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SOURCE:   J Altern Complement Med. 2014 (May);   20 (5):   A22–23

Michael Schneider, Mitchell Haas, Joel Stevans, Ronald Glick, Doug Landsittel

Michael Schneider, mjs5@pitt.edu
University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Purpose:   The primary aim of this study was to compare manual and mechanical methods of spinal manipulation (Activator) for patients with acute and sub-acute low back pain. These are the two most common methods of spinal manipulation used by chiropractors, but there is insufficient evidence regarding their comparative effectiveness against each other. Our secondary aim was to compare both methods with usual medical care.

Methods:   In a randomized comparative effectiveness trial, we randomized 107 participants with acute and sub-acute low back pain to: 1) usual medical care; 2) manual side-posture manipulation; and 3) mechanical manipulation (Activator). The primary outcome was self-reported disability (Oswestry) at four weeks. Pain was rated on a 0 to 10 numerical rating scale. Pain and disability scores were regressed on grouping variables adjusted for baseline covariates.

Results:   Manual manipulation demonstrated a clinically important and statistically significant reduction of disability and pain compared to Activator (adjusted mean difference=7.9 and 1.3 points respectively, P<.05) and compared to usual medical care (7.0 and 1.8 points respectively, P<.05). There were no significant adjusted mean differences between Activator and usual medical care in disability and pain (0.9 and 0.5 points respectively, P>.05).

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Conclusion:   Manual manipulation provided significantly greater short-term reduction in self-reported disability and pain compared to Activator and usual medical care.

University of Pittsburgh IRB approval: PRO10040327.

This work was supported by an award (R00AT004196) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).