Lumbar thrust manipulation and exercise for the treatment of mechanical low back pain in adolescents

Low back pain (LBP) is an increasing problem in health care. The evidence for the use of spinal manipulative therapy to treat pediatric patients with LBP is minimal. The treatment of pediatrics with manual therapy, particularly spinal manipulation, is controversial within the medical community, primarily with respect to adverse events.

The purpose of this case series was to illustrate the feasibility and safety of lumbar manipulation plus exercise in the adolescent population with mechanical LBP.  Three patients – a 13-year-old adolescent girl, 15-year-old adolescent girl, and 13-year-old adolescent boy – were treated in an outpatient physical therapy setting for mechanical LBP. All three patients were assessed using a lumbar manipulation clinical prediction rule and treated with sidelying lumbar manipulation and exercise.

Patients were treated for a total of 10 to 14 visits over a course of 8 to 9 weeks. Pain (measured by a numeric pain-rating scale) and disability (measured by the modified Oswestry Disability Index) improved to 0/10 and 0%, respectively, in each patient. No adverse reactions to manipulation were reported.

The results of this case series describe the use of lumbar thrust manipulation and exercise for the treatment of mechanical LBP in adolescents. The positive results indicate that lumbar manipulation may be a safe adjunct therapy. Further studies, including randomized controlled trials, are needed to determine effectiveness.