For the thousands of patients that suffer from acute neck and back pains, spinal manipulation is a common procedure that involves controlled movement of the vertebrae. The procedure attempts to reestablish motion and appropriate realignment of the spine. Up to 12 percent of patients in the UK undergo the treatment each year with varying degrees of success.
The procedure has long been a source of controversy amongst medical professionals. But some studies have shown that some improvement does occur through spinal manipulation, particularly in patients with musculoskeletal disorders and chronic neck or back pain.
There are various techniques involved and some differ in the strength of the manipulation and this is the concern that professionals have voiced. When the process is used on those with neck pains, some medical experts fear spinal manipulation may be causing damage to the often sensitive areas in and around the neck.
Recent research that reviewed the evidence both for and against spinal manipulation was inconclusive, with some factors increasing the evidence in favour of manipulation and some data pointing to the opposite conclusion; without a more comprehensive study it is difficult to draw definite conclusions.
The authors of the first report, published in the British Medical Journal came to the conclusion that the process of manipulation was unlikely to improve a patient’s condition significantly and were “inadvisable.”
Research was cited that linked manipulation with more serious illnesses including strokes and ruptured arteries. However, it was stressed that the more extreme problems were rare and the most common side effects were some stiffness and soreness.
A second study reports there are several benefits that come from manipulation, particularly when in conjunction with other actions, such as an exercise programme targeted at the problem areas.