Chiropractic vs a pain clinic for chronic low-back pain

This study was performed at a National Health Service (NHS) hospital outpatient pain clinic in the United Kingdom.

First, the details.

  • 30 patients with chronic low-back pain and symptoms for longer than 12 weeks were randomly assigned to 8 weeks of care by a regional pain clinic or a chiropractor.
  • The Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) (a functional analysis by patients after treatment) and Numerical Rating Scale (both shown here) were used to assess changes in perceived disability and pain.

And, the results.

  • After 8 weeks of treatment, the average improvement (decrease in disability) as measured by RMDQ was 5.5 points greater for the chiropractic group vs the pain-clinic group.
  • Reduction in mean pain intensity at week 8 was 1.8 points greater for the chiropractic group than for the pain-clinic group.
  • Both differences were statistically significant.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded that in this group of patients with chronic low-back pain, “Chiropractic management administered in an NHS setting may be effective for reducing levels of disability and perceived pain during the period of treatment.”

This is not the first study to come to this conclusion. In a larger group of 672 patients, the average satisfaction score for chiropractic patients was greater than the score for medical patients.

The authors of that study, who were from the UCLA School of Public Health in California found that “self-care advice and explanation of treatment predicted satisfaction.”

They concluded “Communication of advice and information to patients with low back pain increases … satisfaction with providers and accounts for much of the difference between chiropractic and medical patients’ satisfaction.”

6/22/08 15:03 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.