Background: When conservative therapies for low back pain (LBP) are not effective, elective surgery may be proposed to these patients. Over the last 20 years, a new technology, disc replacement, has become increasingly popular because it is believed to maintain or restore the integrity of spinal movement and minimize the side-effects compared to fusion. Although disc replacement may relieve a patient from pain and related disability, soreness and stiffness of the lumbopelvic region seem to be common aftermaths of the surgery. This prospective case series was undertaken to identify and describe potential adverse events of lumbar spinal manipulation, a common therapy for low back pain, in a group of patients with symptoms after disc prostheses.
Cases presentation: Eight patients who underwent lumbar spine total disc replacement were referred by an orthopaedic surgeon for chiropractic treatments. These patients had 1 or 2 total lumbar disc replacements and were considered stable according to the surgical protocol but presented persistent, post-surgical, non-specific LBP or pelvic pain. They were treated with lumbar spine side posture manipulations only and received 8 to 10 chiropractic treatments based on the clinical evolution and the chiropractor's judgment. Outcome measures included benign, self-limiting, and serious adverse events after low back spinal manipulative therapy. The Oswestry Disability Index, a pain scale and the fear avoidance belief questionnaire were administered to respectively assess disability, pain and fear avoidance belief about work and physical activity. This prospective case series comprised 8 patients who all had at least 1 total disc replacement at the L4/L5 or L5/S1 level and described persistent post-surgical LBP interfering with their daily activities. Commonly-reported side-effects of a benign nature included increased pain and/or stiffness of short duration in nearly half of the chiropractic treatment period. No major or irreversible complication was noted.
Conclusions: During the short treatment period, no major complication was encountered by the patients. Moreover, the benign side-effects reported after lumbar spine manipulation were similar in nature and duration to those frequently experienced by the general population.