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Long-Term Follow-up of a Randomized Clinical Trial Assessing the Efficacy of Medication, Acupuncture, and Spinal Manipulation for Chronic Mechanical Spinal Pain Syndromes

      Objective

      To assess the long-term benefits of medication, needle acupuncture, and spinal manipulation as exclusive and standardized treatment regimens in patients with chronic (>13 weeks) spinal pain syndromes.

      Study Design

      Extended follow-up (>1 year) of a randomized clinical trial was conducted at the multidisciplinary spinal pain unit of Townsville's General Hospital between February 1999 and October 2001.

      Patients and Methods

      Of the 115 patients originally randomized, 69 had exclusively been treated with the randomly allocated treatment during the 9-week treatment period (results at 9 weeks were reported earlier). These patients were followed up and assessed again 1 year after inception into the study reapplying the same instruments (ie, Oswestry Back Pain Index, Neck Disability Index, Short-Form-36, and Visual Analogue Scales). Questionnaires were obtained from 62 patients reflecting a retention proportion of 90%. The main analysis was restricted to 40 patients who had received exclusively the randomly allocated treatment for the whole observation period since randomization.

      Results

      Comparisons of initial and extended follow-up questionnaires to assess absolute efficacy showed that only the application of spinal manipulation revealed broad-based long-term benefit: 5 of the 7 main outcome measures showed significant improvements compared with only 1 item in each of the acupuncture and the medication groups.

      Conclusions

      In patients with chronic spinal pain syndromes, spinal manipulation, if not contraindicated, may be the only treatment modality of the assessed regimens that provides broad and significant long-term benefit.

      Key Indexing Terms

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