About two of every three people will probably experience significant low back pain at some point. A physician like me might suggest any number of potential treatments and therapies. But one I never considered was a referral for spinal manipulation.
It appears I may have been mistaken. For initial treatment of lower back pain, it may be time for me (and other physicians) to rethink our biases.
Spinal manipulation — along with other less traditional therapies like heat, meditation and acupuncture — seems to be as effective as many other more medical therapies we prescribe, and as safe, if not safer.
Most back pain resolves over time, so interventions that focus on relief of symptoms and allow the body to heal are ideal. Many of these can be nonpharmacological in nature, like the work done by chiropractors or physical therapists.
Physicians are traditionally wary of spinal manipulation (applying pressure on bones and joints), in part because the practitioners are often not doctors and also because a few chiropractors have claimed they can address conditions that have little to do with the spine. Patients with back pain haven’t seemed as skeptical. A large survey of them from 2002 through 2008 found that more than 30 percent sought chiropractic care, significantly more than those who sought massage, acupuncture or homeopathy.