If you’ve ever seen a doctor for back pain, you’re not alone. Yet despite how common it is, the precise cause of pain is often unclear and a single, best treatment for most low back pain is unknown. For these reasons, doctors’ recommendations tend to vary.
“Standard care” includes a balance of rest, stretching and exercise, heat, pain relievers, and time. Some doctors also suggest trying chiropractic care. The good news is that no matter what treatment is recommended, most people with a recent onset of back pain are better within a few weeks or even within a few days.
Some doctors refer back pain sufferers to a physical therapist right away. But many people with back pain see acupuncturists, massage therapists, or a chiropractor on their own.
A recent study on chiropractic care for low back pain is among the latest to weigh in on the pros and cons of chiropractic care for treating low back pain. Researchers enrolled 750 active-duty military personnel who complained of back pain. Half were randomly assigned to receive usual care while the other half received usual care plus up to 12 chiropractic treatments. After six weeks of treatment, those assigned to receive chiropractic care:
• reported less pain intensity
• experienced less disability and more improvement in function
• reported higher satisfaction with their treatment
• needed less pain medicine
While no serious side effects were reported, about 10% of those receiving chiropractic care described adverse effects. Five percent of those receiving usual care had similar complaints. (1)
Research has also shown chiropractic care to be helpful in treating neck pain and headaches. In addition, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia may respond to the moderate pressure used both by chiropractors and practitioners of deep tissue massage.
All treatment is based on an accurate diagnosis of your back pain. The chiropractor should be well informed regarding your medical history, including ongoing medical conditions, current medications, traumatic/surgical history, and lifestyle factors. Although rare, there have been cases in which treatment worsened a herniated or slipped disc, or neck manipulation resulted in a spinal cord injury. To be safe, always check with your medical doctor to make sure your condition will benefit from chiropractic or other pain relief alternatives.