A new study confirms the vast majority of patients with lumbar disc herniation can find relief with chiropractic care. The findings show that 90% of patients report substantial improvements within three months of receiving their first chiropractic adjustment.
The results are encouraging, since more research is raising questions about the safety and effectiveness of epidural steroid injections for the long-term management of lumbar disc herniation (LDH) and sciatica. The study, published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics, shows that both chronic and acute herniated discs can be effectively treated by chiropractors.
Researchers conducted a study of 148 patients with MRI-confirmed lumbar disc herniation causing back pain, sciatica, and radiating leg symptoms. The majority of patients (79) suffered from chronic LDH, lasting longer than three months. Thirty seven patients had LDH for fewer than four weeks at the start of the study.
Chiropractors treated the patients with specific spinal manipulations based on individual characteristics, including results from the MRI that demonstrated the area and type of herniated disc. After two weeks, most patients (70%) had significantly improved disability and pain. By the three-month mark, 90.5% had substantial improvements in disability and pain, and that percentage stabilized at the six-month and one-year evaluations.
The researchers pointed out that these improvements cannot be attributed to natural history alone. Earlier studies have suggested that that typical prognosis for acute disc herniation is favorable, with 36% showing significant improvements after two weeks. However the acute patients in this study had faster improvements, with 80% significantly improved after two weeks, and 94.5% after three months.
Other studies have shown that chiropractic care can also assist patients suffering from recurrent lumbar disc herniation also called failed back pain surgery syndrome. Cumulatively this research suggests that patients can benefit from chiropractic for LDH, regardless whether their herniated disc is acute, chronic, or recurrent.