Objective: To provide a brief overview of the current state of evidence for chiropractic care, specifically in the management of asthma and to a lesser extent allergy.
Data sources: A search of MEDLINE for English-language articles published between January 1966 and July 2002 was conducted using the keywords asthma, allergy, manual therapy, physical therapy techniques, chiropractic, physical therapy (specialty), physiotherapy, massage, and massage therapy. A hand search of the primary chiropractic and osteopathic literature on the treatment of asthma was performed, and proceedings from a recent research symposium on spinal manipulation were included.
Study selection: Clinical controlled studies and systematic reviews on spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) and asthma were selected. There were no primary clinical trials on SMT and allergy found.
Results: Many of the claims of chiropractic success in asthma have been primarily based on anecdotal evidence or uncontrolled case studies. Three recently reported randomized controlled studies showed benefit in subjective measures, such as quality of life, symptoms, and bronchodilator use; however, the differences were not statistically significant between controls and treated groups. There were no significant changes in any objective lung function measures. The clinical issues emanating from these trials are discussed.
Conclusions: There is currently no evidence to support the use of chiropractic SMT as a primary treatment for asthma or allergy. Based on reported subjective improvement in patients receiving chiropractic care, certain clinical circumstances may warrant a therapeutic trial in patients with asthma. Further properly designed, collaborative research is needed to determine if there is a role for chiropractic SMT in the care of asthma or allergy.