Effects of spinal manipulation versus therapeutic exercise on adults with chronic low back pain: a literature review

Authors: Merepeza A

J Can Chiropr Assoc 2014 Dec;58(4):456-66
PMID Article Link: 25550671
Journal Date: 2014-12-01


BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is a prevalent disorder that has a significant burden to society in terms of loss of work time and increased economic cost. Two common treatment choices of intervention for CLBP are spinal manipulation and prescribed exercise.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this systematic review was to examine the effectiveness of spinal manipulation vs prescribed exercise for patients diagnosed with CLBP. Studies that compared head-to-head spinal manipulation to an exercise group were included in this review.

METHODS: A search of the current literature was conducted using a keyword process in CINAHL, Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials Database, Medline, and Embase. The search was conducted on, and included studies available up to August 29(th) 2014. Studies were included based on PICOS criteria 1) individuals with CLBP defined as lasting 12 weeks or longer; 2) spinal manipulation performed by a health care practitioner; 3) prescribed exercise for the treatment of CLBP and monitored by a health care practitioner; 4) measurable clinical outcomes for reducing pain, disability or improving function; 5) randomized controlled trials. The quality of included articles was determined by the author using the criteria developed and used by the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro).

RESULTS: Three randomized controlled trials met the inclusion criteria of this systematic review and were included in this review. The outcomes used in these studies included Disability Indexes, Pain Scales and function improvement scales. The results included a mix of effects with one study finding spinal manipulation as more effective and another finding the exercises more so. The third study found both interventions offering equal effects in the long term.

CONCLUSION: Based on the findings of this systematic review there is no conclusive evidence that clearly favours spinal manipulation or exercise as more effective in treatment of CLBP. More studies are needed to further explore which intervention is more effective.