Low Back Pain? Harvard doctor says try Chiropractic!

We know that the vast majority of people will experience low back pain at some point in their life. For some, it’s a minor inconvenience that resolves on its own in a day or so. For others, it becomes a chronic issue that plagues them for months and even years. A 2013 World Health Organization report estimates “…149 million work days are lost every year [in the United States] because of low back pain, with total costs estimated to be $100 to $200 billion a year (of which two-thirds is due to lost wages and lower productivity).”

Despite being one of the primary reasons for disability and for the growing opioid epidemic, there remains no single treatment that works for everyone, every time. With a recent increase in focus on effective alternatives to opioids, more and more research is examining chiropractic.

The results of this scientific scrutiny are showing that chiropractic is not only safe, but also very effective in treating low back pain, as well as other types of musculoskeletal pain. With this data comes interprofessional discussion and new opportunities for providers from various backgrounds to see ways to work together with doctors of chiropractic in providing the best possible care for each patient.

Richard Shmerling, MD, a faculty editor for the Harvard Health Blog, states: “With the backdrop of the opioid crisis, we badly need an effective, safe, and non-opioid alternative to treat low back pain.” He goes on to reference and summarize one of the more recent research studies, published in the JAMA Network Open in May, 2018. This study reported:

After six weeks of treatment, those assigned to receive chiropractic care:

  • reported less pain intensity
  • experienced less disability and more improvement in function
  • reported higher satisfaction with their treatment
  • needed less pain medicine

While Dr. Shmerling acknowledges some limitations of the study, he concludes that it “lends support for chiropractic care to treat low back pain…. This won’t be — and shouldn’t be — the last study of chiropractic care for low back pain. But until we know more, I’ll continue to offer it as one of many treatment options.”

The study referenced by Dr. Shmerling is one among a growing list of scientific studies that show the safety and efficacy of chiropractic care. You can find summaries of other studies on chiropractic, nutrition, fitness and wellness at https://www.tnchiro.com/research/.

By addressing the origin of the pain, chiropractic care can often provide pain relief at the source. Additionally, chiropractors can counsel patients on exercises, stretches or other means to help strengthen the body and prevent a recurrence. For many, this alone eliminates the need for pain medication.

If medications are needed, your chiropractor can work with your other health care providers to provide treatments which may minimize the need for them, helping reduce the chances of side effects and addiction.

If you or a loved one is experiencing low back pain, or other musculoskeletal issues, talk to your doctor of chiropractic about your treatment options. If you do not have a chiropractor, find a TCA member doctor near your home or work here.



Shmerling, Robert H. MD   Should you see a chiropractor for low back pain? – Harvard Health Blog August 16, 2019.   https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/should-you-see-a-chiropractor-for-low-back-pain-2019073017412?fbclid=IwAR3YKYwiXe6o2xhOHY-cwAllIiWVI0XZmNp9sAkJtjq62UaxUo3ML5QSw8o

World Health Organization (WHO) Priority Medicines for Europe and the World 2013 Update 6.24 Low back pain   https://www.who.int/medicines/areas/priority_medicines/Ch6_24LBP.pdf

Goertz CM, Long CR, Vining RD, Pohlman KA, Walter J, Coulter I. Effect of Usual Medical Care Plus Chiropractic Care vs Usual Medical Care Alone on Pain and Disability Among US Service Members With Low Back Pain: A Comparative Effectiveness Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. Published online May 18, 20181(1):e180105. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0105



This article is being shared as part of TCA’s
“Realign Your Thinking” public-awareness campaign – 
helping Tennesseans understand what chiropractic care offers
and the positive role it plays in the overall health care system.