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Spinal manipulative therapy same as standard care for acute low back pain

PainSci » bibliography » Jüni et al 2009
Tags: back pain, spinal adjustment, controversy, devices, chiropractic, bad news, pain problems, spine, treatment, debunkery, manual therapy

Three articles on PainSci cite Jüni 2009: 1. The Complete Guide to Low Back Pain2. The Chiropractic Controversies3. Does Spinal Manipulation Work?

PainSci commentary on Jüni 2009: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

In this good test of SMT, researchers took a hundred patients with nasty, fresh cases of low back pain, and delivered half of them into the care of chiropractors, and the other half into “standard care” — advice and ordinary pain medications, namely. Note that it has often been argued that SMT is best for acute low back pain, not chronic, so this is right in chiropractic’s strike zone: if there is anything remotely impressive about SMT, it should have done well in this contest. It should have pulled out a can of whupass on “advice and meds.” It did not.

SMT and standard care did equally well — or equally poorly, if you prefer. All the patients had the same experience that pretty much everyone with chronic back pain has. The researchers found that “SMT is unlikely to result in relevant early pain reduction in patients with acute low back pain.”

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether treatment with spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) administered in addition to standard care is associated with clinically relevant early reductions in pain and analgesic consumption.

METHODS: We randomised 104 patients with acute low back pain to SMT in addition to standard care (n=52) or standard care alone (n=52). Standard care consisted of general advice and paracetamol, diclofenac or dihydrocodein as required. Other analgesic drugs or non-pharmacological treatments were not allowed. Primary outcomes were pain intensity assessed on the 11 point box scale (BS-11) and analgesic use based on diclofenac equivalence doses during days 1 to 14. An extended follow-up was performed at 6 months.

RESULTS: Pain reductions were similar in experimental and control groups, with the lower limit of the 95% confidence interval (95%-CI) excluding a relevant benefit of SMT (difference 0.5 on the BS-11, 95%-CI -0.2 to 1.2, p=0.13). Analgesic consumptions were also similar (difference -18 mg diclofenac equivalents, 95%-CI -43 mg to 7 mg, p=0.17), with small initial differences diminishing over time. There were no differences between groups in any of the secondary outcomes and stratified analyses provided no evidence for potential benefits of SMT in specific patient groups. The extended follow-up showed similar patterns.

CONCLUSIONS: SMT is unlikely to result in relevant early pain reduction in patients with acute low back pain.

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