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Growing Chiropractic Credibility

To put it mildly, chiropractic care hasn't always enjoyed the best reputation in some circles. Frequently embroiled in controversy both within the chiropractic community and the wider medical world, misrepresented chiropractic results and studies have created a stain upon the profession as a whole. This perception is changing, however, and almost half of all adults in the United States have been patients of chiropractic offices. We’ve gathered three studies from the past decade that highlight a growing confidence in chiropractic.

Study One:

Association of Spinal Manipulative Therapy With Clinical Benefit and Harm for Acute Low Back Pain

This 2017 study aimed to determine whether or not spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) was effective in treating acute lower back pain. In a review of 26 randomized clinical trials during a six-year period between 2011 and 2017, originally published or sourced from MEDLINE, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, EMBASE, and Current Nursing and Allied Health Literature, researchers evaluated improvements and harmful outcomes from SMT. In each study, pain was measured on the 100-mm visual analog scale or other numeric pain scale, and function was measured either by the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire or the Oswestry Disability Index.

Of the 26 randomized clinical trials (RCTs), 15 provided evidence that patients treated with SMT saw associated improvement in pain levels that was statistically significant, and 12 showed that SMT had statistically significant associations with improvement in function. In addition, no RCTs reported any serious adverse effects or harmful outcomes for patients.

Study Two:

Risk of Vertebrobasilar Stroke and Chiropractic Care

This 2008 study examined the validity of a claim sometimes made against chiropractic care, that chiropractic treatments such as cervical manipulation were associated with a higher risk and incidence of vertebrobasilar artery (VBA) dissection stroke. Researchers compiled information about patients admitted to Ontario hospitals for VBA stroke from 1993 and 2002 in this population-based study, considering age, gender, and whether or not the patient had visited a chiropractor or primary care physician (PCP) in the past year.

At the end of ten years, researchers had gathered information about 818 incidents of hospitalized VBA stroke events out of a population of more than 100 million person-years. This extremely rare event was positively associated with both chiropractor and PCP visits, indicating that there is no specific increased risk of VBA dissection associated with chiropractic. Visits to either type of healthcare practice with complaints of headache or neck problems, both symptoms of VBA dissection, were highly associated with VBA stroke, implying that patients were seeking treatment for a pre-existing condition. Therefore, the study concluded that no evidence of excess risk of VBA stroke exists in association with chiropractic care.

Study Three:

Adding Chiropractic Manipulative Therapy to Standard Medical Care for Patients With Acute Low Back Pain

In this 2013 study, researchers determined the effectiveness of chiropractic manipulative therapy (CMT) applied in conjunction with standard medical care (SMC) to SMC alone in a randomized controlled trial. 18- to 35-year-old active military personnel were treated for lower back pain with either CMT and SMC or SMC alone for four weeks, with results measured on the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire and back pain functional scale.

The results of this study showed improvement in patient function in both groups, but adjusted mean scores were significantly better in the group treated with CMT and SMC at both two and four weeks. Improvement in pain score was also significantly better for the group that received CMT as opposed to those treated with only SMC. These across-the-board improvements imply that chiropractic care can improve outcomes in patients with lower back pain.

As chiropractic gains more credibility in the medical community and more confidence from consumers, chiropractors are uniquely positioned to offer innovative and effective treatments to a meet widespread patient needs. Chiropractic care is becoming more and more integrated with standard medical care, as many treatments offered by chiropractic offices are not common in many primary care practices. And with treatments such as decompression therapy with spinal decompression tables producing such amazing results for hard-to-treat patient conditions, chiropractors are coming into the mainstream as experts in musculoskeletal care.

Forging Ahead

This article by Timothy J. Burkhart, DC, BCIM, discusses strategies for chiropractors who face unique challenges and uncertain times. Read it now to discover tips for delivering and achieving success.

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