Objectives: To compare outcomes in perception of pain and disability for a group of patients suffering with chronic low-back pain (CLBP) when managed in a hospital by either a regional pain clinic or a chiropractor.
Design: The study was a pragmatic, randomized, controlled trial.
Setting: The trial was performed at a National Health Service (NHS) hospital outpatient clinic (pain clinic) in the United Kingdom.
Subjects and interventions: Patients with CLBP (i.e., symptom duration of >12 weeks) referred to a regional pain clinic (outpatient hospital clinic) were assessed and randomized to either chiropractic or pain-clinic management for a period of 8 weeks. The study was pragmatic, allowing for normal treatment protocols to be used. Treatment was administered in an NHS hospital setting.
Outcome measures: The Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) and Numerical Rating Scale were used to assess changes in perceived disability and pain. Mean values at weeks 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8 were calculated. The mean differences between week 0 and week 8 were compared across the two treatment groups using Student's t-tests. Ninety-five percent (95%) confidence intervals (CIs) for the differences between groups were calculated.
Results: Randomization placed 12 patients in the pain clinic and 18 in the chiropractic group, of which 11 and 16, respectively, completed the trial. At 8 weeks, the mean improvement in RMDQ was 5.5 points greater for the chiropractic group (decrease in disability by 5.9) than for the pain-clinic group (0.36) (95% CI 2.0 points to 9.0 points; p = 0.004). Reduction in mean pain intensity at week 8 was 1.8 points greater for the chiropractic group than for the pain-clinic group (p = 0.023).
Conclusions: This study suggests that chiropractic management administered in an NHS setting may be effective for reducing levels of disability and perceived pain during the period of treatment for a subpopulation of patients with CLBP.