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Background context: Mobilization and manipulation therapies are widely used to benefit patients with chronic low back pain. However, questions remain about their efficacy, dosing, safety, as well as how these approaches compare to other therapies. Purpose: To determine the efficacy, effectiveness, and safety of various mobilization and manipulation therapies for treatment of chronic low back pain. Study design/setting: A systematic literature review and meta-analysis. Outcome measures: Self-reported pain, function, health-related quality of life, adverse events. Methods: We identified studies by searching multiple electronic databases from January 2000 to March 2017, examining reference lists, and communicating with experts. We selected randomized controlled trials comparing manipulation and/or mobilization therapies to sham, no treatment, other active therapies, and multimodal therapeutic approaches. We assessed risk of bias using Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network criteria. Where possible, we pooled data using random-effects meta-analysis. Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) was applied to determine the confidence in effect estimates. This project is funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health under Award Number U19AT007912. Results: 51 trials were included in the systematic review. Nine trials (1176 patients) provided sufficient data and were judged similar enough to be pooled for meta-analysis. The standardized mean difference for a reduction of pain was SMD= -0.28, 95% CI, -0.47 to -0.09, P=0.004; I2=57% at post-treatment; within seven trials (923 patients) the reduction in disability was SMD= -0.33, 95% CI, -0.63 to -0.03, P=0.03; I2=78% for manipulation or mobilization as compared to other active therapies. Subgroup analyses showed that manipulation significantly reduced pain and disability, compared to other active comparators including exercise and physical therapy (SMD= -0.43, 95% CI, -0.86 to 0.00; P=0.05, I2=79%), (SMD= -0.86, 95% CI, -1.27 to -0.45; P<0.0001, I2=46%). Mobilization interventions, as compared to other active comparators including exercise regimens, significantly reduced pain (SMD= -0.20, 95% CI, -0.35 to -0.04; p=0.01; I2=0%) but not disability (SMD= -0.10, 95% CI, -0.28 to 0.07; p=0.25; I2=21%). Studies comparing manipulation or mobilization to sham or no treatment were too few or too heterogeneous to allow for pooling as were studies examining relationships between dose and outcomes. Few studies assessed health-related quality of life. Twenty-six of the 51 trials were multimodal studies and narratively described. Conclusions: There is moderate-quality evidence that manipulation and mobilization are likely to reduce pain and improve function for patients with chronic low back pain; manipulation appears to produce a larger effect than mobilization. Both therapies appear safe. Multimodal programs may be a promising option.
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Manipulation and mobilization for treating chronic low back
pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Ian D. Coulter, PhDa,b,c,*, Cindy Crawford, BAa, Eric L. Hurwitz, DC, PhDa,d, Howard Vernon,
DC, PhDa,e, Raheleh Khorsan, PhDf, Marika Suttorp Booth, MSa, and Patricia M. Herman,
ND, PhDa
aRAND Corporation, 1776 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138, USA
bUCLA School of Dentistry, Box 951668, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1668, USA
cSouthern California University of Health Sciences, 16200 Amber Valley Dr, Whittier, CA 90604,
USA
dOffice of Public Health Studies, University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa, 1960 East-West Rd, Biomed
D104AA, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
eDivision of Research, Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, 6100 Leslie St, Toronto, ON,
Canada M2H 3J1
fUCI Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy, 300 Social Ecology I, Irvine, CA
92697-7075, USA
Abstract
BACKGROUND CONTEXT—Mobilization and manipulation therapies are widely used to
benefit patients with chronic low back pain. However, questions remain about their efficacy,
dosing, safety, and how these approaches compare with other therapies.
PURPOSE—The present study aims to determine the efficacy, effectiveness, and safety of
various mobilization and manipulation therapies for treatment of chronic low back pain.
STUDY DESIGN/SETTING—This is a systematic literature review and meta-analysis.
OUTCOME MEASURES—The present study measures self-reported pain, function, health-
related quality of life, and adverse events.
METHODS—We identified studies by searching multiple electronic databases from January 2000
to March 2017, examining reference lists, and communicating with experts. We selected
This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
*Corresponding author. RAND/Samueli Chair for Integrative Medicine, RAND Corporation, 1776 Main St, Santa Monica, CA
90407-2138, USA. Tel.: 310-393-0411. coulter@rand.org (I.D. Coulter).
FDA device/drug status: Not applicable.
Author disclosures: IDC: Grant: NCCIH (NIH) (A, Paid directly to institution/employer). CC: Nothing to disclose. ELH: Scientific
Advisory Board: The Spine Journal (C). HV: Nothing to disclose. RK: Nothing to disclose. MSB: Nothing to disclose. PMH: Grant:
NCCIH (NIH) (A, Paid directly to institution/employer).
Supplementary material
Supplementary material related to this article can be found at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.spinee.2018.01.013.
HHS Public Access
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Published in final edited form as:
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. 2018 May ; 18(5): 866–879. doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2018.01.013.
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randomized controlled trials comparing manipulation or mobilization therapies with sham, no
treatment, other active therapies, and multimodal therapeutic approaches. We assessed risk of bias
using Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network criteria. Where possible, we pooled data using
random-effects meta-analysis. Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and
Evaluation (GRADE) was applied to determine the confidence in effect estimates. This project is
funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health under Award Number
U19AT007912.
RESULTS—Fifty-one trials were included in the systematic review. Nine trials (1,176 patients)
provided sufficient data and were judged similar enough to be pooled for meta-analysis. The
standardized mean difference for a reduction of pain was SMD=−0.28, 95% confidence interval
(CI) −0.47 to −0.09, p=.004; I2=57% after treatment; within seven trials (923 patients), the
reduction in disability was SMD=−0.33, 95% CI −0.63 to −0.03, p=.03; I2=78% for manipulation
or mobilization compared with other active therapies. Subgroup analyses showed that
manipulation significantly reduced pain and disability, compared with other active comparators
including exercise and physical therapy (SMD=−0.43, 95% CI −0.86 to 0.00; p=.05, I2=79%;
SMD=−0.86, 95% CI −1.27 to −0.45; p<.0001, I2=46%). Mobilization interventions, compared
with other active comparators including exercise regimens, significantly reduced pain (SMD=
−0.20, 95% CI −0.35 to −0.04; p=.01; I2=0%) but not disability (SMD=−0.10, 95% CI −0.28 to
0.07; p=.25; I2=21%). Studies comparing manipulation or mobilization with sham or no treatment
were too few or too heterogeneous to allow for pooling as were studies examining relationships
between dose and outcomes. Few studies assessed health-related quality of life. Twenty-six of 51
trials were multimodal studies and narratively described.
CONCLUSION—There is moderate-quality evidence that manipulation and mobilization are
likely to reduce pain and improve function for patients with chronic low back pain; manipulation
appears to produce a larger effect than mobilization. Both therapies appear safe. Multimodal
programs may be a promising option.
Keywords
Chiropractic; Chronic low back pain; Manipulation; Meta-analysis; Mobilization; Systematic
review
Introduction
Similar to conclusions reported most recently in BMJ [1], a recent review published in
JAMA reported that among patients with acute low back pain, spinal manipulative therapy
was associated with modest improvements in pain and function at up to 6 weeks, with
transient minor musculoskeletal harms. However, study results showed substantial
heterogeneity [2]. The review did not address the efficacy of manipulation and mobilization
for chronic low back pain. Given the current interest in non-pharmacological alternatives for
the treatment of chronic pain, in particular non-opioid treatments [3], a systematic review of
manipulation and mobilization for chronic low back pain is timely.
The lifetime prevalence of low back pain in the United States may be as high as 84%. The
prevalence of chronic low back pain is about 23%; it disables 11%–12% of the population
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[4]. A recent systematic review of the clinical course of non-specific low back pain found
that in the first 3 months, 33% of patients showed recovery, but 1 year after onset, 65% still
reported pain [5]. The severity, length, or duration of pain for any one individual varies, and
the transition from acute to chronic low back pain is difficult to determine [6].
Pain management approaches vary greatly. Many physicians rely on non-steroidal anti-
inflammatory drugs, opioid, and neurotropic medications, or steroid injections and surgery
as their main tools [7]. Because of the potential or apparent risks associated with these tools
[8], non-pharmacological approaches, thought to involve minimal adverse events, have
become popular. In recent years, multiple studies have explored the evidence for treating
chronic low back pain; options include spinal manipulation therapy, behavioral therapy,
exercise therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, interferential currents, low-
level laser therapy, and yoga [9]. Other therapies include massage, acupuncture, and
superficial heat therapy (eg, therma heat wraps, hot water bottles, heated packs filled with
grain, hot towels, and electric heating pads) [10]. Manual modalities such as physiotherapy,
massage, chiropractic, occupational, and osteopathic therapies, including spinal
manipulation and mobilization, are often used together and alone to treat chronic non-
specific low back pain [11,12].
Several systematic reviews have focused on manual therapies such as spinal manipulation
and mobilization for treating back and neck pain [13–16]. Earlier work suggested that there
is little or no evidence that spinal manipulative therapy was superior to other standard
treatments for chronic low back pain [17,18]; however, recent systematic reviews suggest
that spinal manipulation and mobilization are “viable” options for pain treatment [13,19].
However, the efficacy of manipulation and mobilization may vary depending on the duration
of symptoms, how the intervention is administered (eg, whether there is additional exercise
or general practitioner care, at what dosages, and follow-up periods), the comparator, and
types of outcomes reported. Such variability could be considered inconsistent findings;
however, the overall evidence suggests that manipulation and mobilization are effective
treatment modalities compared with other therapies [13,19].
The purpose of the systematic review described here was to disentangle inconsistencies by
evaluating the research according to different symptom durations across the spectrum of
chronicity, the variations in treatment techniques, variations in comparators, and the impact
on important patient-reported outcomes. Our goal was to better understand the effectiveness
of mobilization and manipulation for chronic non-specific low back pain as compared and
reported in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) since 2000. We would attempt meta-
analysis when there were subsets of data similar enough to pool. This systematic review is
part of a larger project investigating the appropriateness of manipulation or mobilization for
the treatment of chronic low back pain and cervical pain, funded by the National Center for
Complementary and Integrative Health under Award Number U19AT007912.
Methods
This systematic review and meta-analysis report adheres to the Preferred Reporting Items for
Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis guidelines.
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Search strategy and data sources
The systematic review builds upon previous systematic reviews of manipulation and
mobilization for chronic low back pain (up through 2000), such as Bronfort et al. [13] and
Shekelle et al. [18,20,21]. We designed a broad search strategy that did not define the
specific population (ie, not using the word chronic or non-specific) or intervention (ie,
spanning across multiple professions). In addition, we placed no limitations on control or
comparators, outcomes, or study designs, so that the breadth and variations across the
research could be discovered, and the literature could inform the appropriate definitions and
subgroups to consider for analysis given that inconsistencies are present. We searched
PubMed or MEDLINE, Cochrane, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and ICL from January
2000 through March 2017. We drew on reference lists and consultation with subject matter
experts to ensure comprehensiveness (Fig. 1). Because the National Institutes of Health–
funded project focused on both chronic neck pain and chronic low back pain, we executed
the search to meet both needs together (Table 1).
Scoping review
A scoping review of the literature informed the definitions of chronicity used in the review.
It also clarified what is considered non-specific, and what subgroups should be considered
for systematic review and meta-analysis. We reviewed articles and categorized studies
according to specific populations, interventions, control or comparators, outcomes, and
study designs. We excluded studies clearly not related to back pain or to an intervention
involving mobilization or manipulation. We presented findings to an internal steering
committee (ISC) and an external advisory committee (EAC), where evidence-informed
definitions and specific research questions were devised based on the evidence base for
carrying out systematic review and meta-analysis (Table 1).
Study selection
Six reviewers used study eligibility criteria to independently screen the literature in
duplicate. Disagreements about inclusion were resolved through discussion and consensus,
or if necessary, by the ISC. The eligibility criteria included (1) a population experiencing
chronic [6,22] and nonspecific [23] low back pain (as defined in Table 1); (2) an
intervention, with the involvement of a therapist, consisting of either (i) manipulation
(labeled as thrust), (ii) mobilization (labeled as non-thrust), or (iii) a multimodal integrative
practice including manipulation or mobilization components, labeled as a multimodal
“program” if the observed effect could not be attributed directly to the thrust or non-thrust
intervention (eg, a study of chiropractic plus acupuncture vs. usual care would be
multimodal and labeled as a “program” separate from chiropractic plus acupuncture vs.
acupuncture); (3) compared with a sham treatment, no treatment, or other active therapies,
such as exercise, physiotherapy, or physical therapy; (4) an RCT, involving adult human
subjects (age 18 years or older); and (5) at least one pain outcome measuring a reduction in
pain intensity or severity, such as the visual analog scale (VAS) or numeric rating scale
(Table 1).
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Data extraction and quality assessment
Six reviewers participated in data extraction and quality assessment of the individual studies.
Population characteristics, treatment intervention(s), control or comparators, and outcomes
were described for each included study. Quality assessment was performed in duplicate by
reviewers; disagreements were tracked and resolved by the ISC. Risk of bias was assessed
using the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN 50) checklist for RCTs [25].
We assessed external validity using the External Validity Assessment Tool (EVAT) [26],
which measures the generalizability of research to other individuals (external validity) and
other settings (model validity) outside the confines of a study.
Data synthesis and analysis
The primary analysis was based on trials reporting a continuous outcome measure for pain
intensity, disability, or health-related quality of life (HRQoL) [27] up to 1 month after the
end of treatment. Subgroups were constructed to transparently report those studies where (1)
chronicity duration is greater than 3 months or greater than 12 months, (2) intervention
consisting of thrust or non-thrust, (3) and were compared with sham or no-treatment or
another active intervention, for each outcome assessed. Secondary analyses were based on
trials reporting a continuous measure for pain, disability, or HRQoL at follow-up points
closest to 3, 6, and 12 months after treatment. Single treatment (one dose over one day)
studies were excluded from any analysis. Data synthesis and analysis methods for those
multimodal interventions where the effects of manipulation or mobilization could not be
distinguished from the total program were not applied as these studies involved more
pragmatic, program-type interventions and were heterogeneous from study to study. For
simplicity and because many types and styles were included in systematic review, the
authors chose to refer to the manipulation therapies as “thrust” and mobilization therapies as
“non-thrust” (Table 1). We grouped studies in this way in order to attempt to create
homogeneous subsets of studies, allowing us to ask questions about how interventions
compare (eg, thrust vs. sham or no treatment, thrust vs. other active therapies); dose
regimens and practitioner-specific techniques remained heterogeneous across studies
(Supplementary Data Files 1 and 2). Some subgroups were judged too heterogeneous to pool
in any meaningful way.
For all studies where data were available, we extracted sample size, mean, and standard
deviation for each treatment group, at each time point reported. An unbiased estimate using
the Hedges’ effect size [28] and 95% lower and upper limits was computed using intergroup
differences between groups at those time points. For a reduction in pain intensity or
disability, a negative effect size favors the thrust or non-thrust intervention more than the
comparison arm (active comparator, sham, or no treatment group). For an increase in
HRQoL, a positive effect size indicates benefit in thrust or non-thrust treatment group more
than the comparison arm. This was done regardless of whether the study was considered for
meta-analysis or not.
We considered a minimum of three studies judged similar enough in terms of the population,
intervention, control or comparator, and outcome measure as sufficient for pooling data for
meta-analysis. Standardized mean differences (SMDs) were computed using Comprehensive
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Meta-Analysis, Version 3.3.070 (CMA; Biostat, Englewood, NJ, USA). Meta-analyses of
SMD were performed with the generic inverse model of REVMAN. Because we expected
heterogeneity, we used random-effects models; statistical heterogeneity was examined by I2
with low, moderate, and high I2 values of 25%, 50%, and 75%, respectively. Publication bias
was assessed using the Begg adjusted rank correlation test [29] and the Egger regression
asymmetry test [30]. Pooled effect sizes for pain and disability outcomes were translated
into the VAS (0– 100) using a standard deviation of 25 points, and the Roland-Morris
Disability Questionnaire (0–24), using a standard deviation of 6 points, respectively, for
clinical interpretation [17].
We assessed confidence in the effect estimates using the Grading of Recommendations,
Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach based on the following
criteria: risk of bias, inconsistency, indirectness, imprecision, and publication bias, for each
outcome [31].
Results
A total of 7,360 published citations were captured from January 2000 to March 2017, of
which 6,663 were screened at title or abstract level according to the broad eligibility criteria.
This search also included studies on neck pain, which are not reported here. We retrieved
full text for 711 articles; of these, 334 were identified as RCTs on either neck pain or low
back pain. After removing the studies on neck pain, a total of 64 RCT publications reporting
on patients with chronic, non-specific low back pain were included in this systematic review.
Of these, 32 reports [32–63] including 25 unique studies [32–56] were labeled as non-
specific chronic low back pain unimodal (ie, thrust or non-thrust) studies; 32 reports [64–95]
including 26 unique studies [64,66–90] were multimodal (ie, programs involving thrust or
non-thrust) chronic low back pain studies. In addition, non-randomized studies were
identified as part of a larger effort, and investigated to gain further understanding of safety
issues and more pragmatic “real world” implications beyond that which might be offered in
the RCTs evaluated (data not shown) (Fig. 2).
Study characteristics
Characteristics of included studies are detailed in Supplementary Data Files 1 and 2. The
included RCTs examining either a uni- or multimodal intervention of thrust or non-thrust for
patients with chronic low back pain were published between 2000 and 2014. No studies
meeting eligibility criteria were found between 2015 and 2017. The total number of
participants across the 51 unique studies was 8,748, ranging from 19 to 1,334 participants in
each study. The average age of participants was 42 years, ranging from 29 to 59 years. On
average, there were more females than males. For the unimodal (Supplementary Data File 1)
studies, participants reported average pain duration of 3 months or more in 60% of included
studies, 6 months or more in 12% of studies; in 28% of studies, participants described
chronic pain as more than 1 year. Multimodal studies (Supplementary Data File 2) reported
participant average pain duration of 3 months or more in 30% of the included studies; fewer
studies described participants’ chronic pain lasting 6 months (19%). Lastly, 51% of included
studies described participants’ chronic pain as lasting more than 1 year.
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Of the 25 unimodal studies, 60% were identified as thrust interventions, 28% were non-
thrust interventions, and 12% used a combination of both. Some of these studies were
multimodal by design, but were included in this subgroup for the purposes of analysis
because the effect of each intervention could be distinguished. A variety of interventions
were combined to serve more as “programs” for the included multimodal studies. The most
prevalent interventions used in combination with a thrust or non-thrust intervention were
prescribed exercises; others included stretches, massage, ultrasound, education, or advice
therapy. Combined treatment dosages varied from one session for 3 minutes to 16 sessions
of 45 minutes each over the course of 8 weeks. The majority of studies (84%) had active
control or comparators (eg, acupuncture, physical therapy, exercise, usual care); the
remaining studies compared the intervention with sham or no treatment. Active control or
comparator dosages varied from one session for 3 minutes to 16 sessions of 45 minutes each
over the course of 8 weeks.
The studies reported outcomes related to pain intensity or severity, disability, and HRQoL,
all of which were considered critical outcomes for evaluation. The most common outcome
measures were evaluated using the VAS (26 of 51) and the numeric pain rating scale (12 of
51) for pain reduction, the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (21 of 41) or Oswestry
Disability Index for disability (16 of 41), and the Short Form-36 for HRQoL (15 of 17)
(Supplemental Data Files 1 and 2).
Methodological quality
Overall, risk of bias was not considered serious across either the unimodal or the multimodal
studies. Of the 25 unimodal RCT studies [32–56], 3 (12%) were given a SIGN 50 score of
high quality (++) [32–34], 18 (72%) as acceptable quality (+) [35–52], and 4 (16%) as low
quality (0) [53–56]. Among the 26 multimodal studies, 3 (12%) were rated high quality (++)
[88–90], 20 (77%) acceptable quality (+) [68–87,94], and 3 (11%) low quality (0)
[64,65,67,96]. The most prevalent poorly addressed quality criteria related to pitfalls in
reporting group differences, intention-to-treat analyses, and multisite similarities,
respectively. Overall, all EVAT categories were addressed adequately. The source population
(44 of 51) and recruitment of participants (39 of 51) were transparently described and
reflective of the population from which they were drawn. Twenty-three of 51 studies
described the staff, places, and facilities where treatment occurred, but other studies lacked
the details required to fully understand the clinical applicability to real-world settings. The
majority of studies involved physical therapists, chiropractors, physicians, na-turopathic, or
osteopathic clinicians. In some, multiple therapists delivered the interventions. Practitioner
characteristics were well described in many of studies. Treatment locations varied, including
private clinics, university settings, hospitals, or other medical facilities (Table 2).
Adverse events
Of the 25 unimodal RCTs, 5 reported that no adverse events occurred during the study
period; 2 reported minor adverse events—typically worsening symptoms. Another study
reported that 2% of patients experienced serious adverse events. However, none of these
symptoms was determined to be treatment-related, and the frequency of adverse events in
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the treatment and control groups was not significantly different. The remaining 17 studies
did not provide any information on adverse events in the publications.
None of the multimodal studies reported a serious adverse event. Ten studies failed to report
on adverse events and 10 reported that none had occurred. Of the remaining six, the adverse
events were noted as mild, including temporary treatment-related soreness, tiredness, or
worsening of existing complaints. Of studies that did report adverse events, the authors
failed to describe how an event was determined to be adverse, how data were collected, and
the intervals for data collection. It appears that this is perhaps spontaneous self-reporting by
the subjects in the studies (Supplementary Data Files 1 and 2).
The authors relied on the Food and Drug Administration’s definition of an adverse event as
any adverse experience during treatment resulting in death, life-threatening adverse
experience, hospitalization or prolongation of existing hos-pitalization, or persistent or
significant disability or incapacity (Supplementary Data Files 1 and 2). Of the non-RCT
studies examined for the larger project effort, the majority neglected to report on adverse
events. Those that did reported either new complaints or worsening of existing complaints
after initial treatment; however, these complaints were not associated with worse long-term
outcomes and were unlikely to be serious [97–99].
Data synthesis
Studies comparing thrust or non-thrust with a sham or no treatment control were
heterogeneous and could not be pooled for analysis in any meaningful way. In addition, dose
studies that are included in the systematic review were heterogeneous and omitted from any
analysis. As noted previously, we excluded multimodal studies from analysis because of
their inherent heterogeneity. The remainder of studies for consideration consisted of those
thrust and non-thrust interventions compared with another active therapy, consisting of
exercise or physical therapy where treatment was over multiple sessions and post-treatment
assessment was closest to 1 month (4–8 weeks from baseline) across outcomes of pain
reduction, disability, and enhanced HRQoL.
Reduction in pain
Nine trials (1,176 patients) with a reduction in pain at post-treatment closest to 1 month
from baseline and with continuous data were included in the meta-analysis. The pooled
SMD across all studies showed a statistically significant larger reduction in pain from thrust
or non-thrust interventions compared with an active comparator being that of exercise or
physical therapy (SMD=−0.28, 95% CI −0.47 to −0.09, p=.004; I2=57%). Statistical
subgroup analyses showed that when compared with active therapies (SMD=−0.43, 95% CI
−0.86 to 0.00; p=.05, I2=79%), the data favor thrust interventions for patients with chronic
low back pain (5 trials; 481 patients). Among five trials (695 patients), non-thrust
interventions, compared with other active comparators, showed a statistically significantly
larger reduction in pain (SMD=−0.20, 95% CI −0.35 to −0.04; p=.01; I2=0%). Translated
into the VAS, the reduction in pain intensity achieved by thrust interventions equates to
10.75 points larger on a 0–100-mm scale than its comparators; non-thrust interventions
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equate to a 5.0-point reduction higher on a 0–100-mm scale compared with other active
comparators. Fig. 3 details the overall analysis and the subgroups analyzed.
Secondary analyses comparing varying durations of chro-nicity or dose were not feasible
given the available literature but are specified if documented in the study in Supplementary
Data File 1. Data were available for 3 and 6 months follow-up in both thrust and non-thrust
compared with other active comparators for pooling into meta-analysis. Thrust interventions
compared with other active comparators (3 trials, 370 patients) trended toward an increasing
effect over time at 3 months follow-up (SMD=−0.68, 95% CI −1.14 to −0.23; I2=73.7%) and
6 months (3 trials, 223 patients) follow-up (SMD=−0.72, 95% CI −0.99 to −0.45; I2=0%)
(data not shown). Non-thrust interventions at 3 and 6 months followup did not significantly
change from post-treatment.
Reduction in disability
Seven trials (923 patients) with continuous data were included in the meta-analysis for a
reduction in disability at post-treatment closest to 1 month (Fig. 4). The pooled SMD across
all studies showed a statistically significant larger reduction in disability from thrust or non-
thrust interventions compared with an active comparator (SMD=−0.33, 95% CI −0.63 to
−0.03, p=.03; I2=78%). Subgroup analysis showed a statistically significant larger effect in
favor of thrust (3 trials; 225 patients) compared with other active comparators (SMD=−0.86,
95% CI −1.27 to −0.45; p<.0001, I2=46%); however, analysis of non-thrust interventions (5
trials; 698 patients), when compared with other active comparators, did not show a
statistically significantly larger reduction in disability after treatment (SMD=−0.10, 95% CI
−0.28 to 0.07; p=.25; I2=21%). Translated into the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire,
the reduction in disability by thrust interventions equates to a 5.16-point larger reduction l
on a 0–24-mm scale than its comparators; non-thrust interventions equates to a 0.6-point
reduction larger on a 0–24-mm scale compared with other active comparators. Data were
available for 6 months follow-up comparing thrust with other active comparators; the pooled
estimate across three trials (223 patients) was an SMD=−0.71 (95% CI −0.98 to −0.44;
I2=0%) (data not shown). Non-thrust interventions at 3 and 6 months follow-up did not
significantly change from post-treatment (data not shown).
Improved health-related quality of life
Too few studies reported on health-related quality of life to allow for pooling an overall
effect estimate at any time point. Where assessed across studies, however, data are detailed
in Supplementary Data File 1.
Confidence in the effect estimates
Overall, risk of bias was not of serious concern across analyses or subgroups pooled for each
outcome assessed. As expected, we detected statistically significant heterogeneity across the
overall analysis for a reduction in pain (p=.009) and a reduction in disability (p=.0001).
Heterogeneity was likely due to pooling various types of intervention techniques, dose
regimens, and their comparators. Within the subgroups when compared with active
comparators, heterogeneity remained significant for thrust versus other active therapies. The
comparators in these studies consisted of various exercise regimens and physical therapy.
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There were too few studies to pool according to specific chronicity duration or according to
specific predefined dosing cutoffs. The results appeared precise; however, sample size
pooled remains small. We detected no publication bias according to either the Begg or Egger
test for either the overall analysis or according to subgroups (data not shown). Overall,
confidence in the reported effects was graded as moderate for a reduction in pain and
disability after treatment.
Discussion
During the period January 2000 to March 2017, the methodological quality of the RCT
studies for mobilization and manipulation for chronic low back pain is adequate overall;
however, studies remain heterogeneous in terms of dose, duration, techniques involved with
varying interventions and different practitioners with perhaps different training and
backgrounds, controls or comparators being used across studies, and duration of chronicity
of patients included. The source populations and recruitment of the participants seem to
reflect the population of interest for the study (external validity); however, the staff, places,
and facilities in which patients are receiving therapy are not well described, making
extrapolation for real-life settings challenging (model validity).
Mobilization and manipulation appear to be safe, based on what was reported in the
literature. A small-moderate effect was found in favor of manipulation for patients with
chronic low back pain, with pain duration of at least 3 months or more. This effect seems to
increase over time at 3 and 6 months follow-up for reducing pain compared with other active
comparators, namely exercise and physical therapy comparators. Manipulation was also
shown to reduce disability. The quality of the body of evidence is moderate for both of these
outcomes. In the case of studies that defined chronic pain as 12 months or more, there is
insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions solely on this chronicity duration from the
current literature. Evidence to support mobilization interventions does not seem to be as
strong as evidence to support manipulation intervention for chronic low back pain. Although
there are several large studies on mobilization compared with active comparators for chronic
low back pain, the majority did not show statistically significant differences in favor of
mobilization interventions compared with other active comparators. We are moderately
confident in the effect estimates being reported.
There is currently a gap in the evidence concerning the efficacy of manipulation and
mobilization compared with sham or no treatment on pain or disability in the population
studied. Pooling across other subgroups was limited because there were too few sufficiently
similar studies. In addition, we were not able to draw definitive conclusions about patients’
HRQoL due to data limitations. Unlike the unimodal studies, which evaluated the results
from the thrust or non-thrust interventions, the body of evidence from multimodal studies
included a variety of interventions and integrated programs. For example, with exercise,
individuals were allowed to choose their at-home routine or practitioners prescribed specific
treatments. These types of programs may be attractive to patients because the programs may
be similar to what would occur in real practice.
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Overall completeness and applicability
The European Workgroup guidelines recommend a referral for spinal manipulation therapy,
including mobilization, for patients who are suffering from chronic back pain [100]. In the
United States, similar recommendations exist in favor of manual therapies including
manipulation and mobilization for chronic low back pain [101–103]. However, the
recommendations regarding manual therapies for chronic low back pain continue to show
some variation depending on country or region of origin. In most guidelines, manipulation is
recommended or presented as a therapeutic option. Other guidelines do not recommend it. It
is not known why there are such inconsistencies across guidelines [103–105]. Guidelines
may have depended largely on panelists’ interpretations, which have been based on
insufficient or inconclusive evidence or reflected methodological flaws in the reported
studies. Other factors that may influence guideline recommendations include local and
national political variance or bias [103].
Similar to the practice guidelines, recent systematic reviews have reported favorable
evidence for treating chronic nonspecific low back pain using manipulation and
mobilization, including chiropractic [13,106], osteopathic manipulation therapy [107], and
physical therapy [108]. However, as with practice guidelines, these systematic reviews
conclude that the scientific evidence is challenged by heterogeneity in the types of
populations and interventions being studied, lacks long-term outcomes, includes insufficient
data to explore subgroup effects, and has methodological bias that can limit and complicate
the interpretation of the results [11]. Indeed, most systematic reviews conclude that it is
difficult to draw definitive conclusions regarding the risk-benefit of manual therapies in
patients with chronic non-specific pain.
As stated previously, we relied on the evidence provided by Bronfort et al. [13] and Shekelle
et al. [18,20,21] as a starting point for our analysis. We used the definitions of manipulation
and mobilization based on Bronfort et al. [13] and Coulter et al. [24]. However, our
methodology generated a list of terms a priori to consider for inclusion criteria to meet our
definitions. Therefore, our comprehensiveness may have increased the number of RCTs in
this report but may have also increased the heterogeneity for the pooled estimates across
those studies. Bronfort et al. [13] identified 31 total low back pain trials. Of these, 11 trials
(n=1,472) assessed chronic low back pain and 14 trials (n=3,068) investigated a mix of
patients with acute and chronic low back pain.
Because of heterogeneity across studies (ie, too dissimilar in terms of patient characteristics,
outcome measures, time points, and type of treatment comparisons), we did not statistically
pool these studies. However, the results from Bronfort et al. [13] were generally in favor of
spinal manipulation or mobilization for treating chronic low back pain. Bronfort et al. [13]
and Shekelle and Coulter [21] suggested that recommendations for spinal manipulation may
be made with some degree of confidence They identified gaps in the current literature base
that need to be filled in future work, such as the need for future trials to examine well-
defined subgroups of patients and further address the value of manipulation and mobilization
to establish optimal number of treatment visits. Our review attempted to explore this, but
research evidence remains lacking. We found that methodological flaws in the RCTs we
analyzed—lack of power (low precision due to sample size) and some inconsistency—
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influenced our statistical analysis and the overall quality of the body of evidence. Indeed,
better designed studies, more homogeneous groupings, clinically relevant patient-based
outcomes, and larger clinical trials are needed to inform practice decisions regarding spinal
manipulation and mobilization for patients with chronic non-specific low back pain.
However, this review suggests that we can have moderate confidence in the estimate of the
effect across the studies for each outcome evaluated and subgroup assessed, and the effect
seems to increase over time, especially for manipulation therapy.
Strengths and limitations
This review had several strengths, including (1) the involvement of an ISC to contribute to
the question development and the population, intervention, control/comparator and outcome
(PICO) framework, as well as to provide guidance throughout the review with an EAC; (2)
the use of a systematic, explicit, and transparent methodology, incorporating the evaluation
of internal validity (risk of bias), external and model validity, meta-analysis according to
patient reported outcomes, and GRADE framework applied to determine the overall quality
of evidence for each critical outcome evaluated; and (3) an independent methodological
review team to carry out each of the technical steps involved in the review phases. None of
the study authors reported any conflict of interests.
The current search, scoping review, and analysis leverage previous efforts and add to the
literature by including both manipulation and mobilization interventions not only in
chiropractic settings but also in other non-invasive therapy settings such as osteopathy,
manual therapy, and physical therapy. Our approach also addresses the complexity of
chronicity and non-specificity for populations being studied. We attempted to sort the
literature in the most homogeneous fashion, predefining eligibility criteria and specifying
very precise definitions with subject matter expertise to drive the systematic review.
However, clinical heterogeneity between study groups remains a confounder. Indeed, this is
not surprising since chronic pain is a multifactorial condition associated with specific and
nonspecific medical disorders. Non-specific chronic low back pain is difficult to evaluate,
and the nature of the pain and its underlying pathophysiology are poorly understood.
Therefore, chronic non-specific pain, by definition, is heterogeneous. Adequate assessment
of pain and use of validated tools are essential prerequisites of a successful pain treatment
plan and research study [109]. In addition, the styles, techniques, and dosing or duration of
treatment involving manipulation and mobilization vary considerably, and what might work
well for one individual may not for another. Stakeholders, including patients, need to be
involved to help focus the research on that which could be most impactful to them.
Conclusion
There is moderate-quality evidence that manipulation (ie, thrust) interventions may produce
small-moderate reduction in pain intensity compared with other active comparators such as
exercise. Thrust interventions are also likely to reduce disability for patients compared with
these active comparator interventions. The effect seems to increase over time at 3 and 6
months follow-up. There is moderate-quality evidence that mobilization (ie, non-thrust)
interventions are likely to have minimal effect compared with other active comparators in
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terms of reducing pain intensity or disability. Multimodal programs may be promising
options. More research is needed to assess other important patient reported outcomes in
order to strengthen the evidence base regarding mobilization and manipulation for reducing
disability and increasing HRQoL for patients with chronic low back pain. The research to
date is still heterogeneous, and questions remain about optimal treatment duration, dose
requirements, practitioners to be involved, and the kinds of patients who may benefit the
most.
Supplementary Material
Refer to Web version on PubMed Central for supplementary material.
Acknowledgments
The authors would like to acknowledge the following individuals for their technical and administrative support
throughout the project: Cindy Lentino, Viviane Enslein, Chris Baur, John Bingham, Holly Chittum, Laurie
Davidson, and Judy Bearer.
This project is funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health under Award Number
U19AT007912 and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. All analysis
of data, manuscript preparation, and presentation is the work solely of the authors and free of commercial input,
influence, or bias.
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Fig. 1.
Search strategy.
Note: Figure 1 addresses search strategy for low back pain as well as neck pain studies. The
findings of neck pain studies are not reported here. Because the Center of Excellence for
Research in CAM (CERC) project was focused on both chronic neck pain as well as chronic
low back pain, the search was executed to meet both needs together to streamline the effort.
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Fig. 2.
Flow of included studies. CCT, controlled clinical trial; CLBP, chronic low back pain; OBS,
observational studies; RCT, randomized controlled trial.
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Fig. 3.
Reduction in pain.
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Fig. 4.
Reduction in disability.
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Table 1
Eligibility criteria
Eligibility criteria Reference standard definition Scope driven evidence-informed
definition
Population “chronic” low
back pain According to the Pain Management Task Force [6], chronic pain
can be described as ongoing or recurrent pain, lasting beyond the
usual course of acute illness or injury or more than 3–6 mo, and
which adversely affects the individual’s well-being. In 2014, the
National Institutes of Health Task Force on Research Standards for
Low Back [22] recommended defining chronicity of pain as: “(1)
How long has back pain been an ongoing problem for you? (2) How
often has low-back pain been an ongoing problem for you over the
past 6 months? A response of greater than 3 months to question 1,
and a response of ‘at least half the days in the past 6 months’ to
question 2 would define chronic low back pain.”
The majority of studies defined chronicity
based on the duration of pain symptoms
for 12 wk or more. Therefore, a similar
definition of chronicity (≥12 wk) was
adopted, and studies were categorized as
those patients with >12 wk, a mean
duration of 6 mo, and those with >12-mo
pain duration.
Population “non-specific” Non-specific low back pain is defined as pain not attributable to a
recognizable, known specific pathology [23] (eg, infection, tumor,
osteoporosis, fracture, structural deformity, rheumatoid arthritis,
radicular syndrome). Therefore, the etiology of the pain is often
unknown and it is not categorized with a major pathogenic etiology.
The existing literature does not use
standard terminology to report “non-
specific” chronic pain. To guide the
eligibility of studies, the following terms
were specified to be
outside
the scope of
“non-specific”: specific conditions, ie,
cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia,
spondylolisthesis (displacement of
vertebra) and spinal stenosis (narrowing
of spinal canal), pregnancy-related pain,
and ankylosing spondylitis. Consensus
among the internal steering committee
specified the following exemptions:
osteoarthritis, sciatica, radiculopathy, low
back pain “of mechanical origin,” pain
associated with spondylosis, sacroiliac
joint syndrome, trauma-induced, disc
herniation, pelvic anteversion, and
“occupational” low back pain.
Interventions mobilization
or manipulation Bronfort et al. defined
mobilization
as “the application of manual
force to the spinal joints within the passive range of joint motion
that does not involve a thrust (p. 336)” [13]. The RAND report by
Coulter et al. defines
mobilization
as “controlled, judiciously
applied force of low velocity and variable amplitude directed to
spinal joint segment(s)” (p. xi) [24]. Spinal manipulation is defined
as “the application of high-velocity, low amplitude manual thrusts
to the spinal joints slightly beyond the passive range of joint
motion,” by Bronfort et al. [13], where the RAND report by Coulter
et al. defines
spinal manipulation
as “a controlled, judiciously
applied dynamic thrust adjustment, that may include combined
extension and rotation of the upper cervical spinal segments, or
low-velocity and low-amplitude force with the use of a short or
long lever directed to spinal joint segments within patient
tolerance” (p. xi) [24].
The interventions in this systematic
review consist of manipulation or
mobilization in chiropractic settings and
other non-invasive therapies including
osteopathy, manual therapy and physical
therapy. For simplicity, interventions were
categorized into thrust and non-thrust
interventions. When combined with other
active interventions, they were labeled as
“programs.”
Control/comparator(s) This review focused on any intervention being compared with
mobilization or manipulation, including any active therapy (ie,
exercise, physical therapy), manipulation (thrust), mobilization
(non-thrust), sham, no treatment, usual, or standard care.
For the purpose of analysis, controls or
comparisons were categorized as active,
sham, or no treatment, or as direct
comparisons between various thrust and
non- thrust interventions.
Outcome(s) Although pain reduction was predefined as the primary outcome of
interest, the most commonly reported pain-related, patient-reported
outcomes that affect health status were determined through a
scoping review and thus pooled to determine which could be
assessed.
Patient-reported outcomes that the
majority of studies include to date: pain
intensity or severity (as measured by a
VAS or NRS) disability (as measured by
the RMDQ, HRQoL) as measured by the
SF-36 or safety.
Study design(s) All study designs were considered for the purposes of scoping the
literature. Randomized controlled trials were
included in the systematic review and
meta- analysis. Other study designs were
queried when gaps were present (ie,
safety).
HRQoL, health-related quality of life; NRS, numeric rating scale; RMDQ, Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire; SF-36, Short Form 36; VAS,
visual analog scale.
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Table 2
Quality assessment of included studies
Percentage (n) Single modal studies Multimodal studies
SIGN criteria Poor Adequate Well NA Poor Adequate Well NA
Appropriate and clearly focused question 64% (16) 36% (9) 76.9% (20) 23.1% (6)
Randomization 24% (6) 52% (13) 24% (6) 7.7% (2) 65.4% (17) 26.9% (7)
Allocation concealment 28% (7) 56% (14) 16% (4) 30.8% (8) 61.5% (16) 7.7% (2)
Blinding 28% (7) 60% (15) 12% (3) 30.8% (8) 69.2% (18)
Percentage of dropouts 20% (5) 12% (3) 68% (17) 23.1% (6) 19.2% (5) 57.7% (15)
Baseline similarities 4% (1) 28% (7) 68% (17) 3.8% (1) 30.8% (8) 65.4% (17)
Group differences 36% (9) 56% (14) 8% (2) 46.2% (12) 50% (13) 3.8% (1)
Outcome reliability/validity 20% (5) 80% (20) 3.8% (1) 42.3% (11) 53.9% (14)
Intention-to-treat analyses 36% (9) 12% (3) 52% (13) 26.9% (7) 26.9% (7) 46.2% (12)
Multisite similarities 28% (7) 4% (1) 68% (17) 46.2% (12) 3.8% (1) 50% (13)
EVAT criteria Poor Adequate Well NA Poor Adequate Well NA
Recruitment 16% (4) 76% (19) 8% (2) 11.5% (3) 84.6% (22) 3.8% (1)
Participation 24% (6) 52% (13) 24% (6) 23.1% (6) 53.8% (14) 23.1% (6)
Model validity 36% (9) 44% (11) 4% (1) 16% (4) 50% (13) 19.2% (5) 11.6% (3) 19.2% (5)
EVAT, External Validity Assessment Tool; NA, not applicable; SIGN, Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network.
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... (3) Grouped by techniques: when authors used manual techniques that are not distinctive for a specific MT (e.g., thrust or high-velocity low-amplitude techniques could be used in physiotherapy, chiropractic and orthopaedics), the following categories were used, based on Coulter et al. [40]: manipulation' (or 'thrust') and 'mobilisation' (or 'non-thrust'). The latter included neurodynamic techniques, Muscle Energy Techniques, and tender/trigger point. ...
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Background To measure the specific effectiveness of a given treatment in a randomised controlled trial, the intervention and control groups have to be similar in all factors not distinctive to the experimental treatment. The similarity of these non-specific factors can be defined as an equality assumption. The purpose of this review was to evaluate the equality assumptions in manual therapy trials. Methods Relevant studies were identified through the following databases: EMBASE, MEDLINE, SCOPUS, WEB OF SCIENCE, Scholar Google, clinicaltrial.gov, the Cochrane Library, chiloras/MANTIS, PubMed Europe, Allied and Complementary Medicine (AMED), Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) and Sciencedirect. Studies investigating the effect of any manual intervention compared to at least one type of manual control were included. Data extraction and qualitative assessment were carried out independently by four reviewers, and the summary of results was reported following the PRISMA statement. Result Out of 108,903 retrieved studies, 311, enrolling a total of 17,308 patients, were included and divided into eight manual therapy trials categories. Equality assumption elements were grouped in three macro areas: patient-related, context-related and practitioner-related items. Results showed good quality in the reporting of context-related equality assumption items, potentially because largely included in pre-existent guidelines. There was a general lack of attention to the patient- and practitioner-related equality assumption items. Conclusion Our results showed that the similarity between experimental and sham interventions is limited, affecting, therefore, the strength of the evidence. Based on the results, methodological aspects for planning future trials were discussed and recommendations to control for equality assumption were provided.
... CLBP is can be managed by pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods (4). Physiotherapy plays an integral role in pain management in CLBP by using techniques such as activity modification (ergonomics) , exercises including walking, manual therapy techniques like manipulation and electrotherapy modalities particularly the use of TENS (5,6,7,8). ...
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Background and objective. Changes in grey matter of cortex and other parts of brain leads to increased pain perception in chronic low back pain (CLBP) patients which could be reduced by electrical application on these areas. The objective of the present review was to evaluate the efficacy of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) alone as well as tDCS in combination with other interventions on pain in chronic low back pain patients. Method. PubMed and Cochrane search engines was used to locate the literature. The eligibility criterion for the study includes articles published in English language, published till March 2020 and the application of tDCS alone as well as in combination with other interventions on CLBP patients. Pain intensity was measured by visual analogue scale (VAS), numeric rating scale (NRS) or defense and veteran pain rating scale (DVPRS). Mean difference with 95% CI for the active tDCS, sham tDCS and tDCS in combination with other interventions was calculated. Result. 7 articles, with 427 patients, were included in the quantitative meta-analysis. The result showed statistically significant reduction in pain in tDCS alone as compared to sham tDCS Z= 1.93. P= 0.05 and insignificant reduction in pain in tDCS when used in combination with other intervention as compared to sham tDCS, Z= 0.72, P= 0.47 with heterogeneity of 84 % in the included studies. Conclusion. It can be concluded that there is significant reduction of pain in patients of chronic low back pain when tDCS is applied in isolation.
... Acute LBP is mostly due to accident or other disorders such as arthritis [6]. Chronic LBP is defined as a pain that continues over three months, or longer [7]. According to a 2006 review, the total expenditures on LBP has surpassed 100 billion$ per year in the US [8]. ...
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... On the basis of our findings, patients were not given information consistent with the current literature on theoretical mechanisms of TM when the explanations were offered by providers. 4,5,24,44,45 Regarding beliefs of the origin of the popping sound, patients reported an understanding of the mechanisms that is not aligned with current literature. 14,15 The most agreedon explanation among participants was the release of a stuck vertebral segment (supplemental Table 1). ...
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... Despite adverse events following spinal and peripheral joint manipulation and mobilization being investigated since the 1990s, a clear definition and classification system has yet to be established. Our findings highlight that even the terms used to refer to adverse events vary, ranging from "side effects" to "symptomatic responses" to "harms", "complications", "adverse response/reaction/effects/events/ experience", among others [36,42,45,48,66,71,91]. Given the importance of this topic and the increased focus of healthcare on patient safety [13], it is surprising that the standardization of terms, definition and classification system have not yet been established. ...
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... We can find different clinical interventions for the management of pain patients. For example, treatments based on therapeutic exercise [17], manual therapy [18], pharmacology [19], combined [20], among many others. Educational interventions aim to change maladaptive behaviors, dysfunctional thoughts, beliefs, ideas, cognitions in general, as well as to improve moods and increase motivation levels in order to improve problem solving in the lives of pain patients [21]. ...
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The use of complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) continues to become more widespread, especially for the management of chronic pain conditions such as canine osteoarthritis. Many patients have comorbidities that preclude traditional medical options, have not adequately responded to conventional therapies, or have owners interested in pursuing a complementary approach. Evidence-based CAVM can serve as a safe and effective adjunct to manage chronic pain conditions. There is growing evidence in the veterinary literature for the use of acupuncture and some herbal supplements in the multimodal management of canine osteoarthritis. The majority of evidence supporting chiropractic is limited to equine and human literature.
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Objective The objective of this study was to compare patients’ perspectives on the use of spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) compared to prescription drug therapy (PDT) with regard to health-related quality of life (HRQoL), patient beliefs, and satisfaction with treatment. Methods Four cohorts of Medicare beneficiaries were assembled according to previous treatment received as evidenced in claims data: SMT, PDT, and 2 crossover cohorts (where participants experienced both types of treatments). A total of 195 Medicare beneficiaries responded to the survey. Outcome measures used were a 0-to-10 numeric rating scale to measure satisfaction, the Low Back Pain Treatment Beliefs Questionnaire to measure patient beliefs, and the 12-item Short Form Health Survey to measure HRQoL. Results Recipients of SMT were more likely to be very satisfied with their care (84%) than recipients of PDT (50%; P = .002). The SMT cohort self-reported significantly higher HRQoL compared to the PDT cohort; mean differences in physical and mental health scores on the 12-item Short Form Health Survey were 12.85 and 9.92, respectively. The SMT cohort had a lower degree of concern regarding chiropractic care for their back pain compared to the PDT cohort's reported concern about PDT (P = .03). Conclusion Among older Medicare beneficiaries with chronic low back pain, long-term recipients of SMT had higher self-reported rates of HRQoL and greater satisfaction with their modality of care than long-term recipients of PDT. Participants who had longer-term management of care were more likely to have positive attitudes and beliefs toward the mode of care they received.
Article
Spinal manipulation therapy for acute low back pain is associated with modest improvements in pain and function, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in JAMA .1 The authors said that the size of the benefit of spinal manipulation therapy for acute low back pain is about the same as the benefit from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. There are a number of treatments …
Article
Importance Acute low back pain is common and spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) is a treatment option. Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and meta-analyses have reported different conclusions about the effectiveness of SMT. Objective To systematically review studies of the effectiveness and harms of SMT for acute (≤6 weeks) low back pain. Data Sources Search of MEDLINE, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, EMBASE, and Current Nursing and Allied Health Literature from January 1, 2011, through February 6, 2017, as well as identified systematic reviews and RCTs, for RCTs of adults with low back pain treated in ambulatory settings with SMT compared with sham or alternative treatments, and that measured pain or function outcomes for up to 6 weeks. Observational studies were included to assess harms. Data Extraction and Synthesis Data extraction was done in duplicate. Study quality was assessed using the Cochrane Back and Neck (CBN) Risk of Bias tool. This tool has 11 items in the following domains: randomization, concealment, baseline differences, blinding (patient), blinding (care provider [care provider is a specific quality metric used by the CBN Risk of Bias tool]), blinding (outcome), co-interventions, compliance, dropouts, timing, and intention to treat. Prior research has shown the CBN Risk of Bias tool identifies studies at an increased risk of bias using a threshold of 5 or 6 as a summary score. The evidence was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) criteria. Main Outcomes and Measures Pain (measured by either the 100-mm visual analog scale, 11-point numeric rating scale, or other numeric pain scale), function (measured by the 24-point Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire or Oswestry Disability Index [range, 0-100]), or any harms measured within 6 weeks. Findings Of 26 eligible RCTs identified, 15 RCTs (1711 patients) provided moderate-quality evidence that SMT has a statistically significant association with improvements in pain (pooled mean improvement in the 100-mm visual analog pain scale, −9.95 [95% CI, −15.6 to −4.3]). Twelve RCTs (1381 patients) produced moderate-quality evidence that SMT has a statistically significant association with improvements in function (pooled mean effect size, −0.39 [95% CI, −0.71 to −0.07]). Heterogeneity was not explained by type of clinician performing SMT, type of manipulation, study quality, or whether SMT was given alone or as part of a package of therapies. No RCT reported any serious adverse event. Minor transient adverse events such as increased pain, muscle stiffness, and headache were reported 50% to 67% of the time in large case series of patients treated with SMT. Conclusions and Relevance Among patients with acute low back pain, spinal manipulative therapy was associated with modest improvements in pain and function at up to 6 weeks, with transient minor musculoskeletal harms. However, heterogeneity in study results was large.
Article
Non-specific low back pain affects people of all ages and is a leading contributor to disease burden worldwide. Management guidelines endorse triage to identify the rare cases of low back pain that are caused by medically serious pathology, and so require diagnostic work-up or specialist referral, or both. Because non-specific low back pain does not have a known pathoanatomical cause, treatment focuses on reducing pain and its consequences. Management consists of education and reassurance, analgesic medicines, non-pharmacological therapies, and timely review. The clinical course of low back pain is often favourable, thus many patients require little if any formal medical care. Two treatment strategies are currently used, a stepped approach beginning with more simple care that is progressed if the patient does not respond, and the use of simple risk prediction methods to individualise the amount and type of care provided. The overuse of imaging, opioids, and surgery remains a widespread problem.
Article
Objective: To estimate the effect of adding exercise classes, spinal manipulation delivered in NHS or private premises, or manipulation followed by exercise to "best care" in general practice for patients consulting with back pain. Design: Pragmatic randomised trial with factorial design. Setting: 181 general practices in Medical Research Council General Practice Research Framework; 63 community settings around 14 centres across the United Kingdom. Participants: 1334 patients consulting their general practices about low back pain. Main outcome measures: Scores on the Roland Morris disability questionnaire at three and 12 months, adjusted for centre and baseline scores. Results: All groups improved over time. Exercise improved mean disability questionnaire scores at three months by 1.4 (95% confidence interval 0.6 to 2.1) more than "best care." For manipulation the additional improvement was 1.6 (0.8 to 2.3) at three months and 1.0 (0.2 to 1.8) at 12 months. For manipulation followed by exercise the additional improvement was 1.9 (1.2 to 2.6) at three months and 1.3 (0.5 to 2.1) at 12 months. No significant differences in outcome occurred between manipulation in NHS premises and in private premises. No serious adverse events occurred. Conclusions: Relative to "best care" in general practice, manipulation followed by exercise achieved a moderate benefit at three months and a small benefit at 12 months; spinal manipulation achieved a small to moderate benefit at three months and a small benefit at 12 months; and exercise achieved a small benefit at three months but not 12 months.
Article
Recommendation 1: Clinicians should conduct a focused history and physical examination to help place patients with low back pain into 1 of 3 broad categories: nonspecific low back pain, back pain potentially associated with radiculopathy or spinal stenosis, or back pain potentially associated with another specific spinal cause. The history should include assessment of psychosocial risk factors, which predict risk for chronic disabling back pain (strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence). Recommendation 2: Clinicians should not routinely obtain imaging or other diagnostic tests in patients with nonspecific low back pain (strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence). Recommendation 3: Clinicians should perform diagnostic imaging and testing for patients with low back pain when severe or progressive neurologic deficits are present or when serious underlying conditions are suspected on the basis of history and physical examination (strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence). Recommendation 4: Clinicians should evaluate patients with persistent low back pain and signs or symptoms of radiculopathy or spinal stenosis with magnetic resonance imaging (preferred) or computed tomography only if they are potential candidates for surgery or epidural steroid injection (for suspected radiculopathy) (strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence). Recommendation 5: Clinicians should provide patients with evidence-based information on low back pain with regard to their expected course, advise patients to remain active, and provide information about effective self-care options (strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence). Recommendation 6: For patients with low back pain, clinicians should consider the use of medications with proven benefits in conjunction with back care information and self-care. Clinicians should assess severity of baseline pain and functional deficits, potential benefits, risks, and relative lack of long-term efficacy and safety data before initiating therapy (strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence). For most patients, first-line medication options are acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Recommendation 7: For patients who do not improve with self-care options, clinicians should consider the addition of nonpharmacologic therapy with proven benefits-for acute low back pain, spinal manipulation; for chronic or subacute low back pain, intensive interdisciplinary rehabilitation, exercise therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, spinal manipulation, yoga, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or progressive relaxation (weak recommendation, moderate-quality evidence).
Article
Importance Primary care clinicians find managing chronic pain challenging. Evidence of long-term efficacy of opioids for chronic pain is limited. Opioid use is associated with serious risks, including opioid use disorder and overdose.Objective To provide recommendations about opioid prescribing for primary care clinicians treating adult patients with chronic pain outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care.Process The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated a 2014 systematic review on effectiveness and risks of opioids and conducted a supplemental review on benefits and harms, values and preferences, and costs. CDC used the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) framework to assess evidence type and determine the recommendation category.Evidence Synthesis Evidence consisted of observational studies or randomized clinical trials with notable limitations, characterized as low quality using GRADE methodology. Meta-analysis was not attempted due to the limited number of studies, variability in study designs and clinical heterogeneity, and methodological shortcomings of studies. No study evaluated long-term (≥1 year) benefit of opioids for chronic pain. Opioids were associated with increased risks, including opioid use disorder, overdose, and death, with dose-dependent effects.Recommendations There are 12 recommendations. Of primary importance, nonopioid therapy is preferred for treatment of chronic pain. Opioids should be used only when benefits for pain and function are expected to outweigh risks. Before starting opioids, clinicians should establish treatment goals with patients and consider how opioids will be discontinued if benefits do not outweigh risks. When opioids are used, clinicians should prescribe the lowest effective dosage, carefully reassess benefits and risks when considering increasing dosage to 50 morphine milligram equivalents or more per day, and avoid concurrent opioids and benzodiazepines whenever possible. Clinicians should evaluate benefits and harms of continued opioid therapy with patients every 3 months or more frequently and review prescription drug monitoring program data, when available, for high-risk combinations or dosages. For patients with opioid use disorder, clinicians should offer or arrange evidence-based treatment, such as medication-assisted treatment with buprenorphine or methadone.Conclusions and Relevance The guideline is intended to improve communication about benefits and risks of opioids for chronic pain, improve safety and effectiveness of pain treatment, and reduce risks associated with long-term opioid therapy.
Article
Background: Low back pain is a costly illness for which spinal manipulative therapy is commonly recommended. Previous systematic reviews and practice guidelines have reached discordant results on the effectiveness of this therapy for low back pain. Purpose: To resolve the discrepancies related to use of spinal manipulative therapy and to update previous estimates of effectiveness by comparing spinal manipulative therapy with other therapies and then incorporating data from recent high-quality randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) into the analysis. Data Sources: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, and previous systematic reviews. Study Selection: Randomized, controlled trials of patients with low back pain that evaluated spinal manipulative therapy with at least 1 day of follow-up and at least one clinically relevant outcome measure. Data Extraction: Two authors, who served as the reviewers for all stages of the meta-analysis, independently extracted data from unmasked articles. Comparison treatments were classified into the following seven categories: sham, conventional general practitioner care, analgesics, physical therapy, exercises, back school, or a collection of therapies judged to be ineffective or even harmful (traction, corset, bed rest, home care, topical gel, no treatment, diathermy, and minimal massage). Data Synthesis: Thirty-nine RCTs were identified. Meta-regression models were developed for acute or chronic pain and short-term and long-term pain and function. For patients with acute low back pain, spinal manipulative therapy was superior only to sham therapy (10-mm difference [95% CI, 2 to 17 mm] on a 100-mm visual analogue scale) or therapies judged to be ineffective or even harmful. Spinal manipulative therapy had no statistically or clinically significant advantage over general practitioner care, analgesics, physical therapy, exercises, or back school. Results for patients with chronic low back pain were similar. Radiation of pain, study quality, profession of manipulator, and use of manipulation alone or in combination with other therapies did not affect these results. Conclusions: There is no evidence that spinal manipulative therapy is superior to other standard treatments for patients with acute or chronic low back pain.