Spinal Manipulation in the
Treatment of Low-back Pain

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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FROM:   Canadian Family Physician 1985 (Mar);   31:   535–540 ~ FULL TEXT

W. H. Kirkaldy-Willis and J. D. Cassidy

Dr. W. H. Kirkaldy-Willis,
Department of Orthopedics,
University Hospital,
University of Saskatchewan,
Saskatoon, SK. S7N OXO.

Commentary from Daniel Redwood, D.C.

A powerful study illustrating the value of chiropractic care for chronic low back pain patients was performed at the University of Saskatchewan hospital orthopedics department by Kirkaldy-Willis, a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon, and David Cassidy, a chiropractor who later became the department’s research director. The approximately 300 subjects in this study were “totally disabled” by low back pain, with pain present for an average of 7 years. All had gone through extensive, unsuccessful medical treatment before participating as research subjects.

After 2 to 3 weeks of daily chiropractic adjustments, more than 80% of the patients without stenosis (spinal canal narrowing) had good to excellent results, reporting substantially decreased pain and increased mobility. After chiropractic treatment, more than 70% were improved to the point of having no work restrictions. Follow-up a year later demonstrated that the changes were long-lasting. Even those with a narrowed spinal canal, generally considered the most challenging cases, showed a notable response. More than half of these patients improved, and about one in five were pain-free and on the job 7 months after treatment.

Spinal manipulation, one of the oldest forms of therapy for back pain, has mostly been practiced outside of the medical profession. Over the past decade, there has been an escalation of clinical and basic science research on manipulative therapy, which has shown that there is a scientific basis for the treatment of back pain by manipulation.

Most family practitioners have neither the time nor inclination to master the art of manipulation and will wish to refer their patients to a skilled practitioner of this therapy. Results of spinal manipulation in 283 patients with low back pain are presented. The physician who makes use of this resource will provide relief for many patients.


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