New Research Suggests Chiropractic Associated with Reduced Odds of Discectomy

Brand new research published in December 2022 continues to show the effectiveness of chiropractic in reducing the need for surgery.



A study published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) examined the association of chiropractic care versus other types of medical care and the rate of surgical lumbar discectomy for patients newly diagnosed with lumbar disc herniation (LDH) and/or lumbosacral radiculopathy (LSR).  Researchers hypothesized that those receiving chiropractic care would have lower incidence of surgical intervention compared to those receiving other care.  The Retrospective cohort study included over 100 million patient US health records for adults aged 18-49.  Records for patients who had prior lumbar surgery, absolute indications for surgery, trauma, spondylolisthesis or scoliosis were excluded.  Patient records were divided into cohorts that were matched for controlled variables such as demographics and medications.  Each cohort included almost 6000 patients.  Their records were then followed at both 1- and 2-year marks after their initial diagnosis.

Their findings revealed a “significant reduction” in the odds ratio for discectomy in the cohort that had received chiropractic care compared to the cohort that had received other care.  Among those who received chiropractic care, 1.5% had undergone a discectomy at the 1-year follow-up, with a few more having surgery within the 2nd year, bringing the total to 1.9%.  By contrast, of those who received other care, 2.2% had a discectomy in the first year and with additional surgeries in the 2nd year, the total rate reached 2.4%.

Researchers noted that the majority of the surgeries occurred within the first year of the study.  They report that this matches previous studies that reported most of the patients who undergo this surgery, do so within 2-12 months from when they first experience symptoms.  Additionally, previous studies have shown that at least half of patients diagnosed with LDH/LSR experience significant relief within 3-12 months of symptom onset.  This led the researchers in this study to suggest “initial pain relief afforded by CSMT (Chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy) could allow patients to avoid surgery during this early critical period.”

The researchers concluded that many patients receiving a new diagnosis of lumbar disc herniation (LDH) and/or lumbosacral radiculopathy (LSR) may be able to significantly lower their risk of needing surgery by seeing a chiropractor soon after the diagnosis.  They suggest additional studies including randomized controlled trials to confirm the results and provide additional insight.

While no 2 people are alike and everyone will respond differently to treatments for any condition, this and other previous research show that chiropractic care can be a safe and effective treatment for many LDH/LSR patients.  Additionally, these patients also avoid the risks associated with surgery and the medications that are needing during and after any surgical procedure.  Rest assured that chiropractors are trained not only in the treatment of these conditions, but also to recognize when a patient needs additional care beyond chiropractic.  Many chiropractors work with a wide array of other health care specialists in order to coordinate care for patients to provide the best possible outcome.  If you or a loved one is experiencing low back pain, talk to your chiropractor about how this natural treatment may help.



Trager RJ, Daniels CJ, Perez JA, et al Association between chiropractic spinal manipulation and lumbar discectomy in adults with lumbar disc herniation and radiculopathy: retrospective cohort study using United States’ data BMJ Open 2022;12:e068262. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-068262