95% Reported Improvement
By Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
Approximately 70% of the population will have back pain at some point in time in their life according to Lehman ET. Al. (2014). The pain ranges from mild to either moderate or severe and can often be debilitating and associated with or without leg pain if it’s originating from your lower back. Treatment for this common problem is usually broken up into two categories, surgical versus conservative care however, I am going to break it into three categories: surgical, medication and conservative care. This article is going to focus on the continual growing body of evidence of treatment of herniated discs via conservative care and specifically with a chiropractic spinal adjustment.
It was reported by McMorland, Suter, Casha,du Plessis, and Hurlbertin 2010 that over 250,000 patients a year undergo elective lumbar discectomy (spinal surgery) for the treatment of low back disc issues in the United States. The researchers did a comparative randomized clinical study comparing spinal microdiscectomy (surgery) performed by neurosurgeons to non-operative manipulative treatments (chiropractic adjustments) performed by chiropractors. They compared quality of life and disabilities of the patients in the study.
The study was limited to patients with distinct one-sided lumbar disc herniations as diagnosed via MRI and had associated radicular (nerve root) symptoms. Based upon the authors’ review of available MRI studies, the patients participating in the study were all initially considered surgical candidates. Both the surgical and chiropractic groups reported no new neurological problems and had only minor post-treatment soreness. 60% of the patients who underwent chiropractic care reported a successful outcome while 40% required surgery and of those 40%, all reported successful outcomes. This study concluded that 60% of the potential surgical candidates had positive outcomes utilizing chiropractic as the alternative to surgery.
Although the previous report concluded that a chiropractic spinal adjustment is an effective treatment modality for herniated disc a more recent study (Lehman ET. Al. (2014), further clarifies the improvement with chiropractic care. This study considered both herniated discs and radiculopathy or pain radiating down into the leg as a baseline for analysis. The study also considered acute and chronic lumbar herniated disc pain patients.
In this study the acute onset patient (the pain just started) reported 80% improvement at 2 weeks, 85% improvement at 1 month, and a 95% improvement at 3 months. The study went on to conclude that the patient stabilized at both the six month and one year mark after the onset of the original complaint. Although one might argue that the patient would have gotten better with no treatment it was reported that after two weeks of no treatment only 36% of the patients felt better and at 12 weeks up to 73% felt better. This study clearly indicates that chiropractic is a far superior solution to doing nothing and at the same time helps the patient return to their normal life without pain, drugs or surgery.
Chiropractic Care and Herniated Discs with Leg Pain
2 Week Improvement
1 Month Improvement
3 Month Improvement
The caveat is that there are patients who could need drugs or surgery and an accurate diagnosis is paramount and it is incumbent upon the doctor of chiropractic to be fully trained in both the diagnostic and treatment facets of care. It is also important that the chiropractor is well-versed in MRI protocols and interpretation as well as disc pathology to be able to triage the patient accordingly based upon the clinical presentation inclusive of the MRI results.
Chiropractic is one of the safest treatments currently available in healthcare and when there is a treatment where the potential for benefits far outweighs any risk, it deserves serious consideration. Whedon et al. (2014) based their study on 6,669,603 subjects after the unqualified subjects had been removed from the study and accounted for 24,068,808 office visits. They concluded, “No mechanism by which SM (spinal manipulation) induces injury into normal healthy tissues has been identified.(Whedon et al.,2014, p. 5)
- Leeman S., Peterson C., Schmid C., Anklin B., Humphryes B., (2014) Outcomes of Acute and Chronic Patients With Magnetic Resonance Imaging-Confirmed Symptomatic Lumbar Disc Herniations Receiving High-Velocity, Low Amplitude, Spinal Manipulative Therapy: A Prospective Observational Cohort Study With One-Year Follow Up, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 37 (3) 155-163
- McMorland, G., Suter, E., Casha, S., du Plessis, S. J., & Hurlbert, R. J. (2010). Manipulation or microdiscectomy for sciatica? A prospective randomized clinical study.Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 33
- Whedon, J. M., Mackenzie, T. A., Phillips, R. B., & Lurie, J. D. (2014). Risk of traumatic injury associated with chiropractic spinal manipulation in Medicare Part B beneficiaries aged 66-69.Spine, [Epub ahead of print]1-33.