A study published on August 14, 2013, in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics shows that chiropractic care helps patients with neck disc herniations. The study was conducted in Switzerland on German speaking patients and was funded by a joint effort from the Uniscientia Foundation, the European Academy for Chiropractic, and the Balgrist Hospital Foundation.
The authors of the study report that compression of a nerve root from disc herniations in the neck severe enough to cause pain occurs in approximately 83.2 of every 100,000 persons. Patients with herniated discs in the neck can have severe neck and arm pain along with muscle weakness in the arms and shoulders. The authors also emphasize that disc herniations seen on MRI are common, and many people do not have pain or symptoms of any kind. They report that, “One study found that 63% of asymptomatic athletic males older than 40 years had protruding disks in the cervical spine.” Most of these have no pain.
This study included German speaking patients in a chiropractic practice from January 2010 to April 2013 between the ages of 18 and 65 years. Each patient had several orthopedic tests showing positive findings, and each had an MRI that confirmed the presence of a cervical disc herniation. Patients were asked to complete a questionnaire rating their pain where 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain imaginable for both the neck and the arm pain separately. They were also asked to rate their neck disability and rate their global change as care was rendered.
Care rendered was manual hand chiropractic adjustments which the researchers called Spinal Manipulative Therapy or “SMT.” Chiropractic care was given 3 to 5 times per week for the first 2 to 4 weeks followed by 1 to 3 times per week thereafter until the patient was free of pain. Patients in this study did not have surgery, and no other therapies were performed.
The results of the study showed that of the 50 patients in the study, 55.3% of all patients reported that they were significantly improved after only 2 weeks of chiropractic care. None of the participants reported being worse. After one month of care, 68.9% reported being significantly improved with one reporting being slightly worse. By the three month mark, 85.7% reported being significantly better and none were worse.
The researchers noted that the results showed positive changes that were greater than what is normally considered “clinically relevant.” In their conclusion they wrote, “A high proportion of acute and most importantly subacute/chronic patients with MRI-confirmed symptomatic CDHs (cervical disk herniations) treated with high-velocity, low-amplitude cervical spine manipulation (manual chiropractic by-hand adjustments) reported clinically relevant improvement at 1 and 3 months after the first treatment. There were no adverse events reported for patients in this study.”