Manual Therapy Beats Ultrasound for Back Pain

A new study shows that manual therapies like chiropractic are better for back pain than ultrasound therapy.

Both ultrasound and manual therapies are common conservative treatments for back pain, and researchers sought to compare the efficacy of the treatments in 455 patients with back pain.

The researchers discovered that ultrasound therapy was ineffective; patients receiving ultrasound therapy failed to have significant improvements compared to placebo treatments.

Manual therapy on the other hand, did provide patients with substantial improvements in pain.

Nearly two-thirds of patients had at least a 30% reduction in pain, and half of patients had at least a 50% reduction in pain.

Manual therapy patients reported the greatest satisfaction with their treatment, and were less likely to depend on pain medications than the ultrasound and sham groups. Their decreased dependency on drugs was encouraging to researchers who suggested that manual therapies could help patients avoid potentially-addictive drugs.

The study adds to the existing research on the efficacy of chiropractic manual therapies for lower back pain. One recent study suggests that chiropractic adjustments are the best conservative treatment for back pain.

Licciardone J, et al. Osteopathic manual treatment and ultrasound therapy for chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. Annals of Family Medicine 2013;11:122-129.