A Randomized Clinical Trial of Manipulative Therapy and Interferential Therapy for Acute Low Back Pain

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Abstract

Study Design.

A multicenter assessor-blinded randomized clinical trial was conducted.

Objectives.

To investigate the difference in effectiveness of manipulative therapy and interferential therapy for patients with acute low back pain when used as sole treatments and in combination.

Summary of Background Data.

Both manipulative therapy and interferential therapy are commonly used treatments for low back pain. Evidence for the effectiveness of manipulative therapy is available only for the short-term. There is limited evidence for interferential therapy, and no study has investigated the effectiveness of manipulative therapy combined with interferential therapy.

Methods.

Consenting subjects (n = 240) recruited following referral by physicians to physiotherapy departments in the (government-funded) National Health Service in Northern Ireland were randomly assigned to receive a copy of the Back Book and either manipulative therapy (MT; n = 80), interferential therapy (IFT; n = 80), or a combination of manipulative therapy and interferential therapy (CT; n = 80). The primary outcome was a change in functional disability on the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire. Follow-up questionnaires were posted at discharge and at 6 and 12 months.

Results.

The groups were balanced at baseline for low back pain and demographic characteristics. At discharge all interventions significantly reduced functional disability (Roland Morris scale, MT: −4.53; 95% CI, −5.7 to −3.3 vs. IFT: −3.56; 95% CI, −4.8 to −2.4 vs. CT: −4.65; 95% CI, −5.8 to −3.5; P = 0.38) and pain (McGill questionnaire, MT: −5.12; 95% CI, −7.7 to −2.5 vs. IFT: −5.87; 95% CI, −8.5 to −3.3 vs. CT: −6.64; 95% CI, −9.2 to −4.1; P = 0.72) and increased quality of life (SF-36 Role-Physical, MT: 28.6; 95% CI, 18.3 to 38.9 vs. IFT: 31.4; 95% CI, 21.2 to 41.5 vs. CT: 30; 95% CI, 19.9 to 40; P = 0.93) to the same degree and maintained these improvements at 6 and 12 months. No significant differences were found between groups for reported LBP recurrence, work absenteeism, medication consumption, exercise participation, or healthcare use at 12 months (P > 0.05).

Conclusions.

For acute low back pain, there was no difference between the effects of a combined manipulative therapy and interferential therapy package and either manipulative therapy or interferential therapy alone.

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