The clinical course of low back pain (LBP) during chiropractic treatment has not previously been reported on the basis of a prospective survey. The prospective survey is based on patient questionnaires filled in before treatment was started, as well as 1, 3, 6 and 12 months later. Clinical examination was performed at entry and also 1 month later. Two hundred ninety-eight patients with acute or chronic LBP from ten different chiropractic clinics were selected sequentially for this study. At the time of first contact between these patients and the clinics, the current episode of LBP had lasted less than 1 wk in 30% of the patients and for more than 4 wk in 51%. Sixty-five percent had radiating pain into the lower extremity, and 38% were unable to work. Fifty-three percent of the patients had consulted a medical doctor or had received other types of treatment due to the current episode. Nineteen percent were referred by a medical doctor to the chiropractor. After each period of registration, approximately 75% of the patients reported being free of symptoms or feeling much better. The present study was designed to be compared to a similar investigation carried out in a general medical practice. A clear indication of a more favorable outcome was found in those patients receiving chiropractic treatment when compared to those receiving medical treatment, especially concerning such factors as ability to work, bedrest and use of medication. Only a randomized controlled clinical trial is suited for a direct comparison of the effect and cost of chiropractic and medical treatment of LBP.
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