Human Touch Makes A
Big Difference In Back Care
By Gene Emery
BOSTON (Reuters) - Chiropractic and physical therapy are slightly better than routine treatment for back pain and the human touch they involve appears to make the difference, researchers reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine. A back experiment compared chiropractic manipulations of the spine to a popular form of physical therapy known as the McKenzie method. Researchers at the University of Washington at Seattle found the two techniques worked equally well, and were slightly more effective than conventional care. Standard care often involves treatment by an orthopedist, who gives the patient mild pain killers, muscle relaxants and exercises, as well as an educational booklet. ``It looks as if both physical therapy and chiropractic care are better than routine care and a booklet alone,'' Dr. Richard A. Deyo, a member of the team, said in an interview. The study also found that, compared to people who received the educational booklet and standard care, the two-year cost of care averaged $280 more for the person who saw the physical therapist and $276 more for the chiropractic treatment. There was a huge difference in the satisfaction rating among the 321 adults who took part in the study. Only 30 percent of the booklet recipients were pleased with their treatment, while 75 percent of those who received physical therapy or chiropractic treatment rated their care as very good or excellent. ``Having someone concerned about you and taking you seriously may be an important part'' of back treatment, Deyo said. In another experiment, researchers studied the effects of chiropractic treatment on asthma. They found that symptoms improved whether the chiropractors used real or fake adjustments to the spine. In an editorial in the Journal, Dr. Paul G. Shekelle of the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center said the back pain study confirms that ``spinal manipulation is a somewhat effective'' therapy for relieving the symptoms of some patients. The asthma study may be largely academic, Shekelle said, because fewer than 1 percent of patients who go to chiropractors seek help for asthma. Some 80 children with asthma received either real or sham treatments by the 11 chiropractors participating in the first study, led by Dr. Jeffrey Balon of the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto. They found the youngsters breathed a bit easier, used less medicine and had fewer symptoms. But the improvements were the same whether they received real adjustments or useless body manipulations. ``The addition of chiropractic spinal manipulation to usual medical care for four months had no effect on the control of childhood asthma,'' Balon's team concluded. ^REUTERS@