Myth #3: There is no evidence to support that chiropractic works.
I don’t even know where to start with this one. The fact is that there is are so many studies done on spinal manipulation that a Medline search would be overwhelming. Instead of going through the many systematic reviews and meta-analyses that exist, I think the evidence is well summed up by an review exploring international low back pain guidelines. The review can be accessed here.
Over the last 10 years, 12 countries have done critical reviews of the scientific literature concerning low back pain. The international consensus is that the balance of the evidence shows that chiropractic spinal manipulation is effective in managing low back pain, and therefore is included in the recommendations. Here is a summary of their findings:
Clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of acute lower back pain
- Reassurance of the favourable natural history
- Advice to stay active
- Discourage bed rest
- Acetaminophen, p.r.n.
- Chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy
- Advice against passive physiotherapy modalities, prolonged bed rest or specific back exercises.
Essentially the investigators found that following these treatment guidelines (including chiropractic spinal manipulation) led to better outcomes than usual medical care. It is important to note that the guidelines don’t recommend chiropractic as a stand alone treatment, but as one component of a continuum of care.
One of the authors of the study then went on to launch the 2-part C.H.I.R.O study (Chiropractic Hospital-Based Interventions Research Outcome study). The first part pitted chiropractic care (along with the above guideline recommendations) versus usual medical care. The people who received chiropractic care showed better functional and quality of life improvements. The results of this study have been presented at Canadian Spine Society Meeting, the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine, and the North American Spine Society and will be published in an upcoming edition of Spine. A summary of the results can be found here.
In the opinion of this Comox Valley Chiropractor, we are so far past establishing that there is evidence supporting chiropractic care. We are now heading in the direction of trying to establish how to best use this tool in the management of patients, or whether certain subsets of patients will respond more favourably. In the past 5 years, Chiropractic Research Chairs have been established at many universities across Canada in order to further chiropractic research.