Orthotics, chiropractic combo significantly reduced low back pain: study

Canadian Chiropractor staff
August 28, 2017
Written by Canadian Chiropractor staff
LOMBARD, Ill. - Shoe orthotics alone or combined with chiropractic care can significantly improve low back pain experienced by millions of Americans, according to a new study conducted by National University of Health Sciences (NUHS).

The research, published online in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, is said to be the first large-scale study to assess the effectiveness of shoe orthotics for back pain, instead of just foot pain, according to a statement from the NUHS.

In a six-week randomized controlled trial, researchers divided 225 adult subjects into three different groups. The control group received no care. Another group received custom-made shoe orthotics and a third received custom-made shoe orthotics plus chiropractic care that included adjustments, hot or cold packs, and manual soft tissue massage. The research study exclusively utilized shoe orthotics from Foot Levelers.

The results showed that although all groups demonstrated pain improvement in six weeks, only the patients using shoe orthotics had statistically significant improvements in both function and pain, the NUHS said.

"Chiropractic physicians have long prescribed custom shoe orthotics to their patients with the thought that back pain treatment might work best when addressing not only the back but also the hips, knees, ankles, and/or feet," said Dr. Jerrilyn Cambron, the principal investigator of the study, a chiropractor and a research professor and chair of the NUHS College of Allied Health Sciences and Distance Education. "This newly published clinical trial demonstrates that shoe orthotics plus chiropractic care may be a highly effective treatment combination."

The study used custom shoe orthotics from Foot Levelers, specifically designed to improve function of the lower extremities and low back. Pain can be caused by a disruption of the kinetic chain, an engineering concept used to describe the way segments of the body are connected. Such a disruption can move from the feet up to the low back, or from the low back down to the feet, the NUHS statement indicated.

Cambron believes the study will encourage further research into the way functional shoe orthotics can help improve other complex joint issues such as knee and hip pain.

Back pain, now considered a global epidemic, continues to affect about 80 per cent of the population. Meanwhile, widespread opioid addiction has caused physicians to limit the amount of opioids they prescribe to relieve pain.

"For those looking to avoid over-the-counter pain medication and opioids, shoe orthotics combined with chiropractic care may be an alternative worth considering," Cambron said.

"NUHS is proud to lead the research of non-invasive treatments for low back pain," said NUHS president Dr. Joseph Stiefel. "This major study may encourage health-care providers to offer new approaches to low back pain so common among their patients."

The study adds to recent research supporting spinal adjustment for low back pain including an April 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Spinal adjustment is also recommended as a first line treatment for low back pain, according to new guidelines published by the American College of Physicians in February 2017.

National University of Health Sciences, a not-for-profit educational institution with locations in Illinois and Florida, was founded in 1906. National University sets the standard in training for careers in health care, offering graduate degrees in chiropractic medicine, naturopathic medicine, acupuncture and oriental medicine, as well as undergraduate degrees in massage therapy and biomedical sciences.

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