Low back pain (LBP) is a common condition in adolescents. Although much has been written about the efficacy of lumbar manipulation for adults with LBP, little is known about its effectiveness in adolescents. This study had two primary aims: (1) to assess the efficacy of adding lumbar manipulation to an exercise program in adolescents with acute (<90 days) LBP and (2) to report and assess any adverse reactions associated with lumbar manipulation noted in this study. Patients were randomly assigned to receive lumbar manipulation or sham manipulation. All patients performed 4 weeks of physical therapy exercise. Pain, patient-specific functional scale (PSFS), and global rating of change (GROC) scores were measured at evaluation, 1 week, 4 weeks, and 6 months. Relative risk was calculated for adverse reactions noted. We recruited 35 consecutive patients with acute LBP. One patient was excluded after being diagnosed with a spondylolysis, 34 patients remained for analysis. Both groups experienced significant improvement over time in all measures. There were no differences between groups for pain, PSFS, or GROC scores. No increased risk of adverse reaction from lumbar manipulation was noted.
The addition of lumbar manipulation to exercise did not benefit adolescents with acute LBP. There was not an increased risk of an adverse reaction noted in this study from lumbar manipulation performed on adolescents. Further research needs to be done to identify factors that predict positive outcomes following lumbar manipulation in adolescents.