Newly Published Study Touts the Benefits of Spinal Manipulative Therapy for Lower Back Pain

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This week, a review paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association highlighted statistically significant scientific evidence that spinal manipulative therapy can provide pain relief and functional benefits for patients with lower back pain.

The group of researchers, led by doctors at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center, based their study on the results of 26 randomized clinical trials. They found that, in terms of pain relief, spinal manipulative therapy was about as effective as over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen. Their analysis also indicated that spinal manipulative therapy has functional benefits for patients. This means that the patients who received spinal manipulative therapy reported that they were able to walk and move around more easily, and even to sleep better at night.

Why Does Spinal Manipulative Therapy Work?

Although the research shows that the pain relief and functional benefits of spinal manipulative therapy are statistically significant, researchers still have questions about how spinal manipulative therapy actually provides these benefits. Indeed, it may be patient-specific, with different factors weighing more heavily in different cases. Some of the reasons that doctors have suggested include:

  • Relaxing tight muscles in the lower back, which can contribute to pain and make it more difficult to walk and move around
  • Promoting the restoration of tissue between spinal vertebrae
  • Supporting well-being through the development of a trusting relationship between the provider and the patient

Comparing Spinal Manipulative Therapy to Other Treatment Options

Another benefit of spinal manipulative therapy, according to a doctor who wrote an editorial based on the study, is that it is often safer than some of the alternatives. For instance, over-the-counter NSAIDs have gastrointestinal side effects in many patients, and taking prescription opioid painkillers can be dangerous and even lead to dependence. Depending on their needs, spinal manipulative therapy may allow patients to take less of these medications, or even avoid them altogether.

Although the researchers are not suggesting that spinal manipulative therapy is a miracle treatment that can cure all lower back pain and fully replace medication or other treatments, like massage and heat wraps, their findings do indicate that the treatment can have significant benefits when incorporated into an individualized treatment plan designed to address the needs of a particular patient.

Atlanta Chiropractic & Wellness provides spinal manipulative therapy, among a variety of other treatments. If you are interested in incorporating spinal manipulative therapy into your treatment plan for lower back pain, contact us today to make an appointment.


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