Effectiveness, costs and cost-effectiveness of chiropractic care and physiotherapy compared with information and advice in the treatment of non-specific chronic low back pain: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial

Trials. 2017 Dec 22;18(1):613. doi: 10.1186/s13063-017-2351-3.


Background: Low back pain is a global public health problem and a leading cause of disability all over the world. The lifetime prevalence of low back pain is 70-80% and a significant proportion of people affected develop chronic low back pain (CLBP). Besides a severe negative impact on people's health and health-related quality of life, CLBP is associated with substantial costs for society. Medical costs for the management of CLBP and costs for production losses due to absenteeism from work are sizeable. Pharmaceuticals, physical activity, manipulation, and multidisciplinary rehabilitation interventions are examples of widely used treatments for CLBP. However, the scientific basis to recommend the use of one treatment over another is limited and more research is needed to study the effects, costs and cost-effectiveness of treatments for CLBP in clinical practice. The aim of the study is to evaluate the effectiveness (back pain-related functional limitation, back pain intensity, general health, health-related quality of life, and working status), costs (medical costs and costs for production losses) and cost-effectiveness of chiropractic care and physiotherapy when added to information and advice in the treatment of patients with non-specific CLBP in Sweden.

Methods/design: This is a pragmatic randomised controlled trial, where participants are recruited through six primary care rehabilitation units (PCRUs) in Stockholm County Council, Sweden. Individuals with non-specific CLBP are individually randomised to one of four treatment groups: 'information and advice'; 'physiotherapy, and information and advice'; 'chiropractic care, and information and advice'; or 'chiropractic care, physiotherapy, and information and advice'. A sample size of 600 participants will be recruited during a period of 33 months. A computer-based questionnaire is used to collect data on back pain-related functional limitation (Oswestry Disability Index), pain intensity (Numeric Rating Scale), general health (self-rated health), health-related quality of life (EQ-5D-3L), and working status (measured as percentage of full-time work). Data will be collected at baseline, and at 3, 6, and 12 months after baseline.

Discussion: The results from our study should be considered when producing evidence-based guidelines and recommendations on which treatment strategies to use for CLBP.

Trial registration: ISRCTN registry, ID: ISRCTN15830360 . Registered prospectively on 2 February 2017.

Keywords: Chiropractic; Chronic low back pain; Cost; Effectiveness; Exercise; Manipulation; Physiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chiropractic* / economics
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Clinical Trials Data Monitoring Committees
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / economics
  • Low Back Pain / psychology
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Physical Therapy Modalities* / economics
  • Pragmatic Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Quality of Life
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years