A new study suggests that sufferers from chronic low back pain should seek osteopathic treatment prior to considering more costly and invasive interventions such a surgery.
The study reveals low back pain as the leading cause of disability in the world today. In Australia it has been estimated that 70–90% of people suffer from lower back pain in some form at some point in their lives. Low back pain is defined as becoming "chronic low back pain" when it lasts longer than 3 months.
The study on chronic low back pain was published in the March 2016 edition of The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (Vol. 116). It revealed that:
"Six sessions of osteopathy over eight weeks could be enough to reduce pain and see general improvements, particularly in mobility"
The study was performed using significant and clinically relevant measures for recovery from chronic low back pain. It stated that:
"Osteopathic treatment can reduce pain and improve low back function in patients suffering from chronic lower back pain in particular, those with the highest levels of pain and greatest degrees of disability"
The results showed that those with the highest disability scores saw the most substantial improvements after osteopathic treatment. A significant benefit was defined as a reduction of 50% or more in pain and disability scores. Given this it was concluded that:
"Osteopathy proved effective in a majority of patients and that it should always be considered before resorting to surgery"
Also noted in the research was that the type of treatment provided by the physicians in this study was safe:
"Osteopathic manipulative treatment such as that provided by osteopathic physicians in this study is safe, particularly when integrated with the medical management of patients in the context of their history and physical findings."
Interestingly the study also suggests that the osteopathic treatment methods used in the current study may be able to be taught to allopathic physicians (e.g. General Practitioners) to integrate into their management for chronic low back pain. One study revealed that allopathic physicians have greater confidence in managing chronic low back pain after learning manual therapy treatment methods.
This article expresses a common link found between known clinical outcomes and statistical evidence. Osteopaths have always managed patients with chronic low back pain so it's excellent to see some evidence emerging.