Study: Chiropractic Care May Ease Back-Related Leg Pain

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Back pain affects one-half of all working Americans, costs taxpayers billions annually and is the single leading cause of disability worldwide.

A new study finds that people suffering from back-related leg pain experienced more short-term relief when they received chiropractic care along with home exercise and advice (HEA).

Researchers at the University of Minnesota studied 192 adults, aged 21 years or older, with subacute or chronic back-related leg pain lasting at least four weeks from 2007–2011. They found that spinal manipulative therapy plus home exercise and advice provided more relief than HEA alone for 12 weeks. Patients that received chiropractic care and HEA were also less likely to use pain medications and reported greater global improvement and satisfaction with care at both 12 weeks and 52 weeks than the patients in the group that received only HEA.
The study, which is one of the first of its kind, was recently published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Key study findings include:

  • Spinal manipulation plus HEA resulted in less pain, disability and medication use, and greater health status, improvement and satisfaction, than HEA alone after 12 weeks.
  • One year after treatment ended, the spinal manipulation plus HEA group continued to report less medication use and greater improvement and satisfaction.
  • No serious adverse events occurred. Only mild to moderate side effects related to the study treatments were observed, of which the most common was a temporary increase in pain or soreness. 

“These findings are very promising for patients who have struggled with long-standing leg pain and perhaps thought they had run out of options,” said Gert Bronfort, DC, PhD, lead author and research professor at the University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality & Healing’s Integrative Health and Wellbeing Research Program. “This study suggests that spinal manipulation when coupled with self-care is a viable treatment option for those individuals where surgery isn’t a clear indication.” This is especially important given the mounting concerns regarding overuse and abuse of prescription pain medications nationwide.

For patients, this study’s focus on self-care and prevention is important.  While there was an advantage of spinal manipulation combined with HEA, especially in the short-term, the findings of the HEA-alone group were noteworthy. Almost half of the HEA-only patients experienced a 50 percent reduction in leg pain symptoms, which is a clinically important finding.  
“I think it’s critical for patients to realize that there are simple things they can do for themselves that will make them feel better, even if they have struggled with back and leg pain for a long time,” said Roni Evans, DC, MS, PhD, associate research professor in the Center’s Integrative Health and Wellbeing Research Program, and co-author of the study. “While it may feel counter-intuitive to keep moving, and stay active, it’s probably one of the most important things one can do.”

Research reported in this publication was supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Grant R18HP07638).