Assessment of Chiropractic Treatment for Active Duty, U.S. Military Personnel with Low Back Pain

Study Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial

Published in: Trials, v. 17, no. 1, Feb. 2016, p. 1-12

Posted on RAND.org on February 18, 2016

by Christine Goertz, R. Cynthia Long, D. Robert Vining, Katherine A. Pohlman, Bridget Kane, Lance Corber, Joan A G Walter, Ian D. Coulter

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BACKGROUND: Low back pain is highly prevalent and one of the most common causes of disability in U.S. armed forces personnel. Currently, no single therapeutic method has been established as a gold standard treatment for this increasingly prevalent condition. One commonly used treatment, which has demonstrated consistent positive outcomes in terms of pain and function within a civilian population is spinal manipulative therapy provided by doctors of chiropractic. Chiropractic care, delivered within a multidisciplinary framework in military healthcare settings, has the potential to help improve clinical outcomes for military personnel with low back pain. However, its effectiveness in a military setting has not been well established. The primary objective of this study is to evaluate changes in pain and disability in active duty service members with low back pain who are allocated to receive usual medical care plus chiropractic care versus treatment with usual medical care alone. METHODS/DESIGN: This pragmatic comparative effectiveness trial will enroll 750 active duty service members with low back pain at three military treatment facilities within the United States (250 from each site) who will be allocated to receive usual medical care plus chiropractic care or usual medical care alone for 6 weeks. Primary outcomes will include the numerical rating scale for pain intensity and the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire at week 6. Patient reported outcomes of pain, disability, bothersomeness, and back pain function will be collected at 2, 4, 6, and 12 weeks from allocation. DISCUSSION: Because low back pain is one of the leading causes of disability among U.S. military personnel, it is important to find pragmatic and conservative treatments that will treat low back pain and preserve low back function so that military readiness is maintained. Thus, it is important to evaluate the effects of the addition of chiropractic care to usual medical care on low back pain and disability.

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