Comparing Chiropractic Care to Other Treatment Options

As of today, the list of treatment options for back pain continues to grow as new technologies are being discovered to treat the condition and more and more alternative therapies are being accepted in the American mainstream. Still chiropractic care remains a popular option to treat the condition that remains among the most common causes of disability and lost work productivity. How does chiropractic care compare to medical treatments for back pain? And how does chiropractic compare to Eastern healthcare modalities and other treatment options? There are over 300 hundred types of alternative therapies out there, and many of them are designed to treat pain conditions that involve the joints in the body. And with the internet and TV infomercials, there is a constant supply of new treatments developed from "experts" who promise to offer the game changing exercise protocol or machine that will finally make you better. As the average American gets older, so also does the American BMI (Body Mass Index) get larger. As we age and get bigger, our lifestyles and diet is also becoming more and more artificial. The food available at the grocery store is less natural and continues to come from further away, in fact several thousand miles before it finally gets to our plates. And our work commutes are becoming longer, and the jobs that we do involve more and more time sitting in a chair all day. These lifestyle factors often result in our spines becoming overload, and they will cry out in distress eventually due to wear and tear or overuse. Our need for back treatments that work is greater than it has ever been. Will chiropractic care be the best treatment for today's 20th century back problems. Let's take a quick look at chiropractic care compared to other treatment options.

In this article we will look at the following review, which was published in Spine medical journal in 2011. This journal article, which is referenced below, looks at patient groups who were treated with chiropractic care as well as additional complementary therapies, including pillows, bracing, hot and cold therapy, massage, and spinal manipulation along with patient education. Some of the patient groups were also educated on lifestyle and nutritional change as part of the patient education piece.

In this Cochrane studies, certain questions were answered. Does spinal manipulation work at all? Does spinal manipulation alone provide significant back pain relief? Do certain complementary therapies enhance the medical benefits of chiropractic manipulative care? For treatment combinations that do provide pain relieving benefits, what are the short-term and long-term benefits? Let's take a look at some of the numbers.

The authors of this study did a meta-analysis of several treatment study outcomes across several years of data. The authors arranged the data into three time groups, short-term, mid-term, and long-term outcomes. Each subject group was labeled according to the specific combination of treatments that they received. The data results also include a patient group that received no treatment at all. Short-term results were measured after the first month that the treatment sessions started. Mid-term results were measured between 1 and 6 months after the start of the treatment sessions. Long-term results were measured after 6 months and beyond. Let's take a look at the results.

Quantifying and Presenting the Results: How were the results measured? How does one define back pain, and how does one define back pain relief? Pain, disability, and general health status were used to measure baseline levels of back health and treatment progress. The studies chosen for analysis were selected if they had patient groups who could be accurately compared against one another. The patient groups had to be clear according to what specific treatments they were provided with, and how long their treatments lasted. Pain, disability, and general health status had to have been regularly assessed along each of the treatment groups in order to assess short-, mid-, and long-term benefits, or lack thereof.

After all the data was collected, no real game changers emerged among the groups indicating that any treatment combination was above and beyond the others in terms of pain-relieving benefits. The treatment groups included spinal manipulations, heat, cold, massage, education ,medications, bed rest, exercise, and no treatment at all. Each of these treatments was looks at as used along, and combinations among the treatment groups were analyzed.

The results indicate that those given chiropractic care showed significant early improvement over the other treatment groups. The mid-term and long-term results showed fewer long-term benefits of chiropractic care over other types of treatments.

The study also looked at success results by measuring patient pain levels as well as those that experienced some level of physical disability. The results among the treatment groups also showed little differences among the groups in terms of mid-term and long term treatment results. When comparing general health among the patients, there was also little significant differences among groups in terms of long-term results.

Bruce F. Walker, DC, MPH, DrPH, et al. A Cochrane Review of Combined Chiropractic Interventions for Low Back Pain. In Spine. February 1, 2011. Vol. 36. No. 3. Pp. 230-242.