Chiropractic Treating Low Back Pain Research Study

Outcomes of Low Back Pain Treated by General Practitioners and Chiropractors

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The Study: Patients with low back pain had distinct clinical course patterns that were typically neither complete recovery nor constant pain

The Facts:

a. The study looked at 1,082 patients with nonspecific low back pain.

b. The authors examined both the intensity and frequency of the low back pain each week for a year. 

c. The patients were treated by either a general practitioner or a chiropractor.

d. 106 general practitioners and 36 chiropractors were involved.

e. The care was covered 100% when given by a general practitioner but only 20% of the cost was covered for chiropractic care.

f. The patients, on average, improved for the first 10 weeks and then the progress stopped.

g. The test was not designed to investigate the effects of chiropractic care as compared to medical care. However, the authors noted that “early improvement or recovery were a larger part of the chiropractic sample that the GP sample, whereas patterns of sustained LBP were more frequent in GP.”

h. Most patients in the study were not pain free at the end of the year time period. However, only a small group suffered from severe constant pain at the end of the year time period. 

Take Home:

Most patients in the study did not completely recover within a year. The greatest amount of improvement that occurred in the cases tended to take place in the first 10 weeks. 

Reviewer’s Comments: The study was not set up to identify the differences between chiropractic and medical care but as can be seen above the chiropractors seemed to come out pretty good in the study. The take away from this study appears to be that low back pain doesn’t just go away on its own and that even with care most patients will still have some pain a year later. I was also left to wonder if the chiropractic patients had as much care as they really needed because only 20% of the cost of their care was covered.

Reviewer: Roger Coleman DC

Editor: Mark R. Payne DC

Reference: Kongstead A, Kent P, Hestbaek L, Vach W. Patients with low back pain had distinct clinical course patterns that were typically neither complete recovery nor constant pain. A latent class analysis of longitudinal data. Spine J. 2015;15:885-94

Link to Abstract: 

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