Neurosurgery. 1993 Jul; 33(1): 73-8; discussion 78-9.
A risk/benefit analysis of spinal manipulation therapy for relief of lumbar or cervical pain.
Department of Neuroscience, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Peoria.
Approximately 12 million Americans undergo spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) every year. Renewed interest in this method requires an analysis of its reported risks and possible benefits. This review describes two patients with spinal cord injuries associated with SMT and establishes the risk/benefit ratios for patients with lumbar or cervical pain. The first case is a man who underwent SMT for recurrent sciatica 4 years after chemonucleolysis. During therapy, he developed bilateral sciatica with urinary hesitancy. After self-referral, myelography demonstrated a total block; he underwent urgent discectomy with an excellent result 3 months after surgery. The second patient with an indwelling Broviac catheter and a history of lumbar osteomyelitis underwent SMT for neck pain. Therapy continued for 3 weeks despite the development of severe quadriparesis. After self-referral, he underwent an urgent anterior cervical decompression and removal of necrotic bone and an epidural abscess with partial neurological recovery. An analysis of these cases and 138 cases reported in the literature demonstrates six risk factors associated with complications of SMT. These include misdiagnosis, failure to recognize the onset or progression of neurological signs or symptoms, improper technique, SMT performed in the presence of a coagulation disorder or herniated nucleus pulposus, and manipulation of the cervical spine. Clinical trials of SMT have been summarized in several recent articles.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)