In July of this year, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a "Patient Page" to educate consumers on their best options for acute and chronic low back pain.1 The list of recommended options for acute low back pain (fewer than 12 weeks) included "spinal manipulation" ahead of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and muscle relaxants.The recommended options for chronic low back pain also included spinal manipulation ahead of NSAIDs.
This is certainly something to celebrate, but it is equally important to understand the events that led to the AMA advising patients that spinal manipulation (performed by chiropractors more than 90 percent of the time in the U.S.) is an effective, viable option.
While there were many events on the journey, there are some important ones that set the course. The first milestone was the antitrust lawsuit against the AMA, which was filed in 1976 based on initial documents demonstrating the AMA was involved in an illegal boycott of the chiropractic profession using state legislators, medical journals, popular media and other methods to convince the public and decision-makers that chiropractic was an unscientific cult.
The 11-year court battle culminated in the AMA being found guilty of trying to "contain and eliminate chiropractic as a profession" and being forced to allow medical doctors the right to receive referrals from DCs, refer to DCs and associate with DCs.2
The second milestone was the establishment of chiropractic practice guidelines in 1993. These were important because they demonstrated to legislators, government officials, other health care providers and the public that DCs practiced under a set of guidelines supported by research and best practices. These guidelines were also instrumental in the inclusion of spinal manipulation in the LBP guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Health Care Policy and Research the next year.3
These first two victories set the stage for not only the survival of chiropractic; recognition by a federal agency also gave the profession an unprecedented endorsement that made the next leg of the journey much easier. Removing a major source of prejudice against chiropractic and gaining credibility set the stage for serious research into the effectiveness of chiropractic. And while back pain effectiveness has the most studies, it has become the beachhead for additional research in other areas, including nonmusculoskeletal ailments.
Yes, there are many dedicated people, many of them dedicated researchers, who help make all of the above happen; too many to name. But these three events have a common denominator: Dr. Louis Sportelli. Through his tireless work behind the scenes, participating in countless meetings and lobbying for chiropractic research funding, Dr. Sportelli has played a significant role in all three events.
With his keen understanding of the power of research, Dr. Sportelli has led the charge to secure funding first through the now-defunct Foundation for Education and Research (FCER) and now through the NCMIC Foundation. As he notes: "The most significant weapon for the profession is well-designed research to fully establish the value, cost and efficacy of chiropractic." Over the past few years, Dr. Sportelli's goal has been to raise $25 million in a nonprofit chiropractic research trust. The total raised already is over $13 million, funding numerous studies.4
This month, our profession is raising additional money for even more much-needed chiropractic research. Think about how far our profession has gone so you have the right and privilege to practice chiropractic. Much of that progress is the result of research funded by our profession. Your contribution now will open new doors for chiropractic today and in the years to come.
Please consider making a donation to your future. Visit www.ncmicfoundation.org/how-to-give/ for more information and to make a donation. Thank you.
- Traeger AC, et al. Low back pain. JAMA. 2021;326(3):286.
- Wolinsky H. Contain and Eliminate: The American Medical Association's Conspiracy to Destroy Chiropractic. Visit www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/o2_e.php?f_id=39 to learn more.
- Acute Low Back Problems in Adults: Assessment and Treatment. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, 1994.
- NCMIC Foundation: Publications and Presentations.
Click here for more information about Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher.