Study design: A prospective randomized controlled trial.
Objectives: To examine the effectiveness of combined manipulative treatment, stabilizing exercises, and physician consultation compared with physician consultation alone for chronic low back pain.
Summary of background data: Strong evidence exists that manual therapy provides more effective short-term pain relief than does placebo treatment in the management of chronic low back pain. The evidence for long-term effect is lacking.
Methods: Two hundred four chronic low back pain patients, whose Oswestry disability index was at least 16%, were randomly assigned to either a manipulative-treatment group or a consultation group. All were clinically examined, informed about their back pain, provided with an educational booklet, and were given specific instructions based on the clinical evaluation. The treatment included four sessions of manipulation and stabilizing exercises aiming to correct the lumbopelvic rhythm. Questionnaires inquired about pain intensity, self-rated disability, mental depression, health-related quality of life, health care costs, and production costs.
Results: At the baseline, the groups were comparable, except for the percentage of employees (P = 0.01). At the 5- and 12-month follow-ups, the manipulative-treatment group showed more significant reductions in pain intensity (P < 0.001) and in self-rated disability (P = 0.002) than the consultation group. However, we detected no significant difference between the groups in health-related quality of life or in costs.
Conclusions: The manipulative treatment with stabilizing exercises was more effective in reducing pain intensity and disability than the physician consultation alone. The present study showed that short, specific treatment programs with proper patient information may alter the course of chronic low back pain.