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Chiropractic Alternative to Back Surgery

Chiropractic care may help patients avoid unnecessary back surgery and help control a $50 billion a year epidemic of low back pain in the United States, according to an article examining chiropractic as an alternative to surgery for low back pain.

An analysis of the rates and costs of back surgeries in the U.S. yields some disconcerting figures. In 1990, 279,000 back surgeries were performed, more than twice the number that took place just 10 years earlier. Between 1979 and 1987, disc removals increased by 75 percent and spinal fusion rates rose 200 percent. Yet, the effectiveness of surgery for the treatment of low back pain is largely unsubstantiated and reports of failed back surgeries range between 15 to 40 percent with some estimates as high as 70 percent. Both the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research in the U.S. and the National Health Services of Great Britain have endorsed spinal manipulation as an effective intervention for low back pain in their recently published guidelines.

After a review of surgical intervention for low back pain, the British guidelines concluded that “there is not good scientific evidence of the effectiveness of surgical treatment for back pain” and goes on to state that “scientific research and controlled trials to test the effectiveness of fusion and other form of surgical treatment for back pain are needed.”

SOURCE: Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research, May/June 1996