Ouch! Back pain can make life miserable. The good news is there are many options for treatment that can even have a greater impact on overall wellbeing to keep you living your best life even as you age.
For example, numerous studies have evaluated chiropractic care and its effectiveness compared to other common medical treatments for pain relief. However, some research has examined its effectiveness on other aspects of health, such as reducing mobility limitations, increasing overall well-being and improving mental health. With populations today looking at a longer life expectancy than generations past, there is renewed focus in health care on ways to increase the quality of living in those extra years.
Researchers at the University of Iowa and Emory University designed a study to examine these quality of life health issues.
To do this, they focused on three key factors. One of the most commonly used methods of measuring functional health changes are “activities of daily living” (ADLs). Tracking a patient’s ability to do their normal day-to-day routine and the hobbies they enjoy, shows how a patient’s normal life is being affected by a painful condition. The aforementioned study also tracked what are considered instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) and the subjects’ lower body function (LBFs). These 3 categories of a person’s functional health are regularly used to signify disability.
Patients were asked to self-rate health and depressive symptoms. This was important because these symptoms have been correlated with future functional decline, dependency, and mortality.
Researchers linked records from the nationally representative Survey on Assets and Health Dynamics among the Oldest Old (AHEAD) to Medicare Part B claims data. AHEAD data includes information on the participants demographic, socioeconomic status, physical & cognitive health, disease history, and lifestyle behaviors.
By utilizing Medicare provider claims in conjunction with this longitudinal survey of community-dwelling older adults, they were evaluating results experienced by patients who received chiropractic care in a normal, everyday setting. Additionally, the participants were re-interviewed regularly, allowing for a reliable method of tracking health over a period of time.
For this study, participants were taken from those who had at least 1 pair of contiguous interviews between 1995-2006. From that, 1,057 individuals with a single episode of care for a back problem were used. For those treated by both a doctor of chiropractic (DC) and medical doctor, only 1 out of 9 visits were to a provider other than a DC. Therefore, the subjects were simply divided between those who sought chiropractic care versus those who sought medical care only.
A quick look at the results detected little difference between the chiropractic patients and medical patients. However, “results indicate a significant protective effect of chiropractic against declines in activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, and self-rated health.” The study revealed that among the chiropractic group there was:
- less declines in ADLs (medical over 30% vs chiropractic 19%)
- less decline in IADLs (medical 29% vs chiropractic about 18%)
- less decline in LBF (medical almost 38% vs chiropractic 30%)
In discussing the potential limitations of the study, they acknowledge that those who received chiropractic care only may differ from those who received a combination of chiropractic and medical. The patients who received both types of care tended to also have a longer treatment window as well as higher total number of services. This could be an indication of more serious and/or multifaceted issues. Therefore, combining these into 1 group could lead to “underestimating the magnitude of the beneficial effect of chiropractic.”
Study authors summarized it this way:
“Our results are the first to show the importance of examining chiropractic use within an episode of care in traditional practice settings, rather than focusing on visit frequency alone. Moreover, we evaluated the effects of the treatments received during the episodes on ADLs, IADLs, and LBFs, which are critically important measures that inform patients, clinicians, and payers about the benefits and harms of certain treatments relative to others… this research provides additional support that such therapeutic levels are indeed beneficial in terms of protecting older persons from functional declines and self-rated health over as much as two years.”
Beyond the factors addressed in this study, chiropractic delivers these results without the risks associated with medications.
- Chiropractic does not interact with medications
- Chiropractic has a lower risk of side effects, (and what side effects occur are generally nothing more than mild soreness)
- Chiropractic does not cause harm to internal organs like the liver or stomach
- Chiropractic does not lead to addiction to opioids or other drugs.
It makes sense to seek chiropractic care first! Your local chiropractor is an expert in the musculoskeletal system. Additionally, they are well versed in nutrition, fitness and other wellness topics. Your doctor can provide a treatment plan to not only reduce pain and improve function, but get you back to the activities you enjoy!
If your condition requires treatment beyond chiropractic, your doctor will refer you to another health care provider to address that need. Chiropractors are able to work hand in hand with other specialties to provide the best treatment possible for each individual patient. If you do not have a chiropractor, you can find one here.
REFERENCE: Weigel PA, Hockenberry J, Bentler SE, Wolinsky FD. The comparative effect of episodes of chiropractic and medical treatment on the health of older adults. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2014;37(3):143–154. doi:10.1016/j.jmpt.2013.12.009.