Short-term effectiveness of spinal manipulative therapy versus functional technique in patients with chronic nonspecific low back pain: A pragmatic randomized controlled trial

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Background Context Chronic low back pain (LBP) is a prevalent condition associated with pain, disability, decreased quality of life, and fear of movement. To date, no studies have compared the effectiveness of spinal manipulation and functional technique for the management of this population. Purpose This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of spinal manipulation and functional technique on pain, disability, kinesiophobia, and quality of life in patients with chronic LBP. Study Design/Setting A single-blind pragmatic randomized controlled trial conducted in a university research clinic was carried out. Patient Sample Sixty-two patients (62% female, age: 45±7) with chronic LBP comprised the patient sample. Outcome Measures Data on disability (Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire [RMQ], Oswestry Low Back Pain Disability Index [ODI]), pain intensity (Numerical Pain Rate Scale [NPRS]), fear of movement (Tampa Scale of Kinesiophobia [TSK]), quality of life (Short Form-36 [SF-36] quality of life questionnaire), isometric resistance of abdominal muscles (McQuade test), and spinal mobility in flexion (finger-to-floor distance) were collected at baseline immediately after the intervention phase and at 1 month postintervention by an assessor blinded to group allocation of the patients. Methods Patients were randomly assigned to the spinal manipulative therapy group or the functional technique group and received three once-weekly sessions. Results In comparison to patients receiving functional technique, those receiving spinal manipulation experienced statistically, although not clinically, significant greater reductions in terms of RMQ (standardized mean difference in score changes between groups at post-treatment: 0.1; at 1 month: 0.1) and ODI (post-treatment: 2.9; at 1 month: 1.4). Linear longitudinal analysis showed a significant improvement in both groups over time for RMQ (manipulative: F=68.51, p<.001; functional: F=28.58, p<.001) and ODI (manipulative: F=104.66, p<.001; functional: F=32.15, p=.001). However, significant treatment-by-time interactions were not detected for pain intensity (p=.488), TSK (p=.552), any domains of the SF-36 quality of life questionnaire (p≤.164), McQuade test (p=.512), and finger-to-floor distance (p=.194). Differences between and within groups were not clinically meaningful in any of the reported measures. Conclusions In comparison to functional technique, spinal manipulative therapy showed greater reduction in disability in patients with chronic LBP, but not in terms of pain, fear of movement, quality of life, isometric resistance of trunk flexors, or spinal mobility. However, differences in disability were not clinically meaningful; therefore, spinal manipulative therapy did not result in any clinically important short-term benefits over functional technique therapy. In addition, as neither group met the threshold for minimum clinically important difference following treatment, neither treatment resulted in a clinically meaningful benefit.

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