Chiropractic therapy encompasses massage, exercise, advice, electrophysical therapies, sports therapy, and tapping. But chiropractors are essentially health care professionals that specialize in spinal health.
Spinal manipulative therapy, which forms the bulk of most chiropractors’ day-to-day work, is a therapeutic intervention performed on vertebral joints in the spinal column to alleviate pain. Chiropractors apply tension to the patient’s ligaments
and then deliver a short, high-velocity thrust to increase the movement of the vertebrae. The therapy works by increasing vertebral mobility and improving blood flow to help reduce inflammation. It also changes nerve function which can result in many other effects. So what does the evidence say about its efficacy? A Cochrane Review of spinal manipulation therapy for chronic low back pain shows that at minimum, it’s as effective as exercise therapy, standard medical care or
physiotherapy. (Interestingly, a Cochrane Review also shows that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which doctors commonly prescribe to alleviate back pain, only have a slight effect on back pain but also have many side effects and cause adverse reactions.) Spinal manipulation therapy gained prominence in 2007 when the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society recommended it as a treatment for chronic or subacute low back pain, alongside exercise therapy,
acupuncture and yoga. There have now been around 70 randomised control trials and 10 systematic reviews which support its use to treat lower back pain. Perhaps most notably, a 2004 study published in the British Medical Journal compared spinal manipulation therapy with exercise and reported better outcomes with spinal manipulation.