Short- or Long-Term Treatment of Spinal Disability in Older Adults With Manipulation and Exercise

Michele Maiers, Jan Hartvigsen, Roni Evans, Kristine Westrom, Qi Wang, Craig Schulz, Brent Leininger, Gert Bronfort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Back and neck pain are associated with disability and loss of independence in older adults. Whether long-term management using commonly recommended treatments is superior to shorter-term treatment is unknown. This randomized clinical trial compared short-term treatment (12 weeks) versus long-term management (36 weeks) of back- and neck-related disability in older adults using spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) combined with supervised rehabilitative exercises (SRE). Methods: Eligible participants were ages ≥65 years with back and neck disability for ≥12 weeks. Coprimary outcomes were changes in Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) and Neck Disability Index (NDI) scores after 36 weeks. An intent-to-treat approach used linear mixed-model analysis to detect between-group differences. Secondary analyses included other self-reported outcomes, adverse events, and objective functional measures. Results: A total of 182 participants were randomized. The short-term and long-term groups demonstrated significant improvements in back disability (ODI score –3.9 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) –5.8, –2.0] versus ODI score –6.3 [95% CI –8.2, –4.4]) and neck disability (NDI score –7.3 [95% CI –9.1, –5.5] versus NDI score –9.0 [95% CI –10.8, –7.2]) after 36 weeks, with no difference between groups (back ODI score 2.4 [95% CI –0.3, 5.1]; neck NDI score 1.7 [95% CI 0.8, 4.2]). The long-term management group experienced greater improvement in neck pain at week 36, in self-efficacy at weeks 36 and 52, and in functional ability, and balance. Conclusion: For older adults with chronic back and neck disability, extending management with SMT and SRE from 12 to 36 weeks did not result in any additional important reduction in disability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1516-1524
Number of pages9
JournalArthritis Care and Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

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© 2018, American College of Rheumatology

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