Study: Spinal manipulation therapy may help decrease central pain sensitization

Spinal manipulation therapy can help lessen pain sensitivity, according to a study published in The Journal of Pain.

Spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) has been shown to reduce the severity of lower back pain in some subjects. Understanding how it lessens lower back pain could enhance its clinical effectiveness, based on a press release from journal.

Results of the study showed that the lessening of pain sensitivity comes more as result of the SMT and less so from any placebo effect caused by the expectation of receiving SMT. The study’s conclusion, as discussed in the press release, suggests there is potential for SMT to be a clinically beneficial way to lessen pain sensitivity.

In the study, researchers from the University of Florida investigated whether lessening of pain sensitivity attributed to SMT is specific to the procedure or whether it occurs as a placebo effect from the expectation of treatment.

Study subjects had low back pain and were recruited from the University of Florida campus. The 110 participants underwent baseline pressure and thermal pain testing and were randomly assigned to SMT, placebo SMT, enhanced placebo SMT or no intervention. Enhanced placebo SMT was the same as placebo SMT, except subjects were informed they would get with SMT or a placebo intervention, according to the release.

The results showed that significantly more participants who received the enhanced placebo SMT had good to excellent results than those who received standard placebo SMT or no treatment. According to the release, there was no significant difference between subjects who received enhanced placebo SMT or actual SMT treatment.

The authors noted that their findings reveal a mechanism of SMT that was unrelated to the expectation of receiving SMT and it arose from the modulation of dorsal horn excitability and the lessening of central sensitization.