OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to examine the outcome of patients undergoing chiropractic treatment for mechanical neck or LBP.
Design and Setting: A retrospective, outcome-based analysis was done for patients seeking care at a private chiropractic practice over a 1-year period. A total of 512 files were reviewed, with 119 patients selected for inclusion. Patients were included if their chief symptom was uncomplicated mechanical neck or LBP. Diagnoses included cervical, lumbar, or sacroiliac joint sprain/strain (International Code of Diagnostics version 9 [ICD-9] code: 847.1, 847.3, 846.1, respectively), discogenic LBP (ICD-9: 722.1), and headaches (ICD-9: 784.0) because many patients with neck pain presented with concomitant headaches. Disability and pain were measured with the modified Oswestry scale (for the patients with LBP), Neck Disability Index, and an 11-box visual analogue pain scale before and after treatment. Treatment consisted of spinal manipulation, various soft-tissue techniques, home-care instructions, and ergonomic and return-to-activity advice, including rehabilitative exercises. Patients received an average of 12 treatments over a 4-week period. Statistical analysis was performed on pretreatment and posttreatment values for both disability and pain. Stratification was based on duration (acute/subacute, chronic, acute exacerbation of a chronic condition) and severity (mild, moderate, or severe) of symptoms.
RESULTS: Statistically significant reductions in disability and pain scores were achieved in all groups. An average 52.5% and 52.9% reduction in pain and disability, respectively, was achieved in the low-back group. The chronic LBP group realized a less statistically significant reduction of pain and disability (19.7% and 19.8%, respectively) than the acute/subacute (66.8% and 62.5%) or the chronic/recurrent group (56. 5% and 63.4%). The differences were statistically significant. Patients with neck pain had an average 53.8% and 48.4% reduction in their pain and disability, respectively. Patients with concomitant neck pain and headaches had statistically significant higher pretreatment and posttreatment disability and pain scores than those with only neck pain. There was no statistically significant difference in outcomes between groups stratified according to pain intensity.
CONCLUSIONS: Patients attending a private chiropractic clinic for treatment of mechanical neck pain or LBP had statistically significant reductions in their pain-related disability after treatment. These results indicate that chiropractic manipulation is beneficial for the treatment of mechanical neck pain and LBP. However, care must be taken when drawing conclusions from these outcomes. The study design does not account for the natural history of low back- or neck pain-related disability and therefore does not allow for claims of treatment efficacy. In addition, it has been suggested that patients presenting to medical doctors with these symptoms have significant overlying comorbidity when compared with patients presenting to a chiropractor.
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