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Research Review: Can Seeing a Chiropractor Reduce Your Osteoarthritis Pain?

Coping with neck or lower back pain due to osteoarthritis? The Arthritis Foundation suggests you might want to give chiropractic therapies a try. They interviewed several chiropractic experts who asserted skeletal adjustments that increase joint function and other techniques that relax muscles around inflamed joints could reduce pain. But what does the research say? While research into the effects of chiropractic therapies on osteoarthritis pain is limited and often conflicting, some research has found chiropractic therapies may help alleviate pain commonly caused by osteoarthritis, for example:

  • A 2017 review and meta-analysis of 26 randomized clinical trials discovered chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) was effective for reducing acute lower back pain (present for six weeks or less) and improving function. The review also noted that minor, short-term side effects, including increased pain, muscle stiffness, and headache, occurred in around 50% of people receiving this treatment.
  • A 2004 review of 43 randomized clinical trials found SMT was likely to be more helpful than standard medical therapies in relieving acute and chronic neck and lower back pain; however, it found rehabilitative exercise therapy was more effective in some cases.
  • A 2003 review of four randomized clinical trials also found SMT and exercise therapy were similarly effective for treating neck pain.
  • A 2006 study including 252 participants with lower back pain due to osteoarthritis found chiropractic therapy, including the application of moist heat, reduced pain and improved range of motion to a greater degree and more rapidly than moist heat alone.
  • A 2011 report described ten cases of patients with osteoarthritis in the upper cervical spine, noting chiropractic manipulation and mobilization techniques relieved pain, improved range of motion, and opened affected joint spaces. Overall clinical improvement as a result of chiropractic therapy occurred in 80–90% of cases.

The verdict? While the research isn’t conclusive, chiropractic therapies may be worth a try. In fact, the American College of Physicians recommends trying therapies like seeing a chiropractor before using medication. If you do visit a chiropractor for osteoarthritis pain, remember it could take four to ten treatments to experience improvement. If you don’t see any improvements by then, it might be wise to try a different treatment.

Source: Arthritis Foundation

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Information expires December 2018.


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