From the first day of chiropractic school, prospective DCs are taught that the basis of all chiropractic care is in the correction of spinal subluxations.
When the vertebrae are shifted back into their proper positions, pressure or blockages on the nerves leading to and from the spine are released, allowing the body to heal itself. Certainly, there has been a vast trove of published research that shows evidence for the ability of joint manipulation to treat a wide variety of conditions, including pain and stiffness.
However, as chiropractic has evolved over the years, it has learned to embrace a wide number of other treatment modalities, ranging from massage therapy, to electrotherapy, to low level laser therapy. By combining each of these treatments with chiropractic, DCs are now able to treat a much wider variety of conditions than just those centered on the spine. Low level laser therapy, also sometimes called cold laser therapy, has some particularly interesting treatment possibilities. Previous research has shown that lasers may have several therapeutic benefits, including speeding up wound healing, as well as treating pain and stiffness.1
Combining treatment modalities
An article published in the March-April 2011 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics presented the findings from a randomized, controlled study to compare the benefits of chiropractic manipulations and low level laser therapy in treating cervical facet pain and range of motion dysfunction. A group of 60 patients between the ages of 18 and 40 were selected, all of whom had pain and restricted range of motion in the cervical area of the spine for at least one month’s duration. The patients were randomized into one of three groups: (1) chiropractic manipulation (CMT); (2) low level laser therapy (LLT); or (3) a combination of the two treatments. All patients received six treatments over the course of three weeks.2
All the patients reported the same baseline levels of pain and restricted range of motion. At the end of the treatments, there was a significant difference between both Groups 1 and 2 and Groups 1 and 3 in terms of cervical range of motion. There was also a significant difference between Groups 2 and 3 in terms of both pain and range of motion. Although all three groups improved from baseline measurements, the group that underwent a combination of chiropractic manipulation and low level laser therapy showed more improvement than either of the two treatments alone. The researchers concluded: “Both therapies are indicated as potentially beneficial treatments for cervical facet dysfunction. Further studies are needed to explore optimal treatment procedures for CMT and LLLT and the possible mechanism of interaction between therapies.”2
Although it is essential that DCs remember the history behind chiropractic, they must also keep an eye on current therapies that can help them improve their bottom line, as well as provide their patients with more effective care. Based on this research report, it is easy to see that laser therapy will have a bright future in relieving joint pain and stiffness.
1 Beychok T. “Therapeutic applications for lasers.” ChiroEco.com. https://www.chiroeco.com/therapeutic-applications-for-lasers/32285/. Published March 2015. Accessed May 2015.
2 Abrahamse H, Hay C, Saayman L. “Chiropractic manipulative therapy and low-level laser therapy in the management of cervical facet dysfunction: A randomized controlled study.” J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2011;34(3):153–163.