Jo Hartley

Techniques used by chiropractors to treat thoracic spine pain (pain of the upper and middle back) are no better than sham therapy, an Australian study shows.

A research team from the discipline of chiropractic at Murdoch University’s School of Health investigated spinal manipulative therapy and the Graston technique to determine their effectiveness in relieving pain and disability in spine pain compared with sham treatment.

The Graston technique uses a hand-held instrument to detect and break down scar tissue and fascial restrictions to boost mobilisation.

The study included 143 adults with ongoing non-specific thoracic spine pain who were randomly allocated to receive either spinal manipulative therapy, the Graston technique or sham treatment, which involved non-functional ultrasound.

Each participant received up to 10 supervised treatment sessions at the university’s chiropractic student clinic in Perth over a 4-week period.

The study found that there was no differences in the treatment groups for pain or disability at any point in time following the start of treatment, from one week to 12 months.

However, there were improvements in pain and disability over time in all 3 groups.

“These results constitute the first from a fully powered randomised controlled trial, comparing [spinal manipulative therapy], Graston technique and a placebo.

“It indicates that there is no difference in outcome at any point in time for pain and disability … however, all groups improved with time,” the authors concluded.

Last Reviewed: 20/05/2016

Australian Doctor