To some people, chiropractic is nothing but hokum. Just some drummed-up practice more likely to hurt than heal. To others, however, it’s a guaranteed way to deal with all musculoskeletal issues, and according to researchers from Connor Whole Health, University Hospitals, Cleveland, they’re not wrong. They believe having your “back cracked” from lower back pain could save you a trip to the operating room in the future. 

Spinal manipulation therapy or “back cracking” stands out as the most common chiropractic method employed and it has been proven to be quite effective in several studies, particularly in the treatment of lower back pain. With studies on whether this form of treatment reduces the need for spinal surgery lacking, the author of this study set out to remedy that. 

Their findings revealed that individuals who receive spinal manipulative therapy for the early treatment of lower disc herniation (spinal nerve injury) are safe from having the whole or part of their invertebrate disc removed for at least two years minimum. 

Study Methodology

To arrive at their findings, Robert J. Trager and his team conducted a retrospective study, examining selected individuals between the age of 18-49 recently diagnosed with lower disc herniation from a 101 million patient network in the United States. Individuals who had received prior lumbar surgery or were in a severe amount of pain and so likely needed surgery were exempted from the study. 

A statistical technique called propensity score matching which reduces observational biases was employed and after examination, 5,785 patients who had received chiropractic spinal manipulation therapy were identified and the same number had also received other forms of medical treatment for their pain.

After identification, both cohorts of patients were followed up on to see what percentage of patients needed surgery and what percentage didn’t. 


By the end of the study, researchers discovered that patients who had received spinal manipulation therapy were less likely to need surgery further down the line. 

They discovered that after one year of follow-up, only 1.5% of the patients who had undergone prior spinal manipulation therapy needed a discectomy compared to the 2.2% of patients who had received other forms of medical care for their lower back pain. 

A follow-up after two years of diagnosis showed that only 1.9% of patients in the chiropractic cohort had undergone discectomy while 2.4% of patients in the cohort who received other forms of medical care needed the surgery.

The lead authors were keen to point out, however, that despite the study’s promising results and its expansion on previous works exploring chiropractic surgery, it does have limitations, mainly due to its observational nature. They recommend that their study be replicated using a more randomized, controlled trial design. 


Despite the many myths and misconceptions about spinal manipulation therapy, the results and multiple benefits it provides speak for themselves. 

Choosing to opt for chiropractic care either alone or in conjunction with other forms of medical care has been proven to be highly beneficial and findings from this study further go to prove that. 

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