Benefits and Harms of Spinal Manipulative Therapy for the Treatment of Chronic Low Back Pain

Read the scientific review here: Benefits and harms of spinal manipulative therapy for the treatment of chronic low back pain: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.

Low Back Pain (LBP) is the leading cause of disability in the world and chronic LBP can unfortunately lead to ongoing pain and disability in a significant number of patients resulting in high costs for national health care systems. Previous research published in the Lancet last year has already highlighted the need to move away from ineffective and risky historical approaches to managing patients’ chronic low back pain that include surgery and pharmaceuticals such as paracetamol and opioid prescriptions and toward more conservative approaches. These approaches ideally contain a number of elements in a package of care for chronic low back pain and one of these elements includes Spinal Manipulative Therapy (SMT), a skilful manual technique most associated with the chiropractic and osteopathic professions.   

Recently, a large scientific review of the benefits and harms of SMT were published in the prestigious British Medical Journal by a well-known research group in the Netherlands. This group are led by chiropractor and researcher, Sidney Rubinstein. This review was something called a systematic review and meta-analysis which are types of research that can have a strong impact on clinical practice and guidelines. Bringing together previously published clinical trials looking at SMT, this influential study concluded that SMT effects on pain and disability were as good as any of the other effective recommended treatment approaches, and was superior to non-recommended treatment approaches in terms of reduction in disability. Any adverse effects of SMT were minor, restricted to the short term and mainly centred on musculoskeletal effects such as soreness and stiffness.

Professor Dave Newell, AECC University College’s Director of Research said “Our Master of Chiropractic course is one of the most established and best in the world, focused on a strong evidence-based approach to training chiropractors. This important study further cements the solid scientific support for packages of care that include SMT for Low Back Pain as safe and effective. We continue to have strong links with researchers around the world including some of the authors of this paper in the Netherlands, where we are collaborating on a further study looking at low back pain in the elderly. We are proud to be at the leading edge in such research as part of our mission to achieve a healthier society through education, research and clinical care.”

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