Shoe orthotics alone or combined with chiropractic care can significantly improve the low back pain experienced by millions of Americans, according to a new study conducted by National University of Health Sciences (NUHS).
The research, released in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, is the first large-scale study to assess the effectiveness of shoe orthotics for back pain, instead of just foot pain. In a six-week randomized controlled trial, researchers divided 225 adult subjects into three different groups. The control group received no care. Another group received custom-made shoe orthotics from Foot Levelers and a third received custom-made shoe orthotics from Foot Levelers plus chiropractic care that included adjustments, hot or cold packs, and manual soft tissue massage. The results showed that although all groups demonstrated pain improvement in six weeks, only the patients using shoe orthotics had statistically significant improvements in both function and pain.
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“Chiropractic physicians have long prescribed custom shoe orthotics to their patients with the thought that back pain treatment might work best when addressing not only the back but also the hips, knees, ankles, and/or feet,” said Jerrilyn Cambron, DC, MPH, PhD, LMT, the principal investigator of the study, who is also a research professor and chair of the NUHS College of Allied Health Sciences and Distance Education. “This newly published clinical trial demonstrates that shoe orthotics plus chiropractic care may be a highly effective treatment combination.”
The study used Foot Levelers custom shoe orthotics exclusively, which are specifically designed to improve function of the lower extremities and low back. Pain can be caused by a disruption of the kinetic chain, an engineering concept used to describe the way segments of the body are connected. Such a disruption can move from the feet up to the low back, or from the low back down to the feet.
“Using Foot Levelers to balance and support the feet–the foundation of the body–helps balance and support the spine,” said Foot Levelers CEO Kent S. Greenawalt. “The study supports what we have known for over 65 years, thanks to the testimony of millions of patients and tens of thousands of doctors. Foot Levelers custom orthotics plus chiropractic care are a winning combination and a powerful first-line treatment in the battle against low back pain.”
Dr. Cambron believes the study will encourage further research into the way functional shoe orthotics can help improve other complex joint issues such as knee and hip pain.
Back pain, now considered a global epidemic, continues to affect about 80 percent of Americans. Meanwhile, widespread opioid addiction has caused physicians to limit the amount of opioids they prescribe to relieve pain.
“For those looking to avoid over-the-counter pain medication and opioids, shoe orthotics combined with chiropractic care may be an alternative worth considering,” Dr. Cambron said.
“NUHS is proud to lead the research of non-invasive treatments for low back pain,” said NUHS President Joseph Stiefel, MS, EdD, DC. “This major study may encourage health care providers to offer new approaches to low back pain so common among their patients.”
The study adds to recent research supporting spinal adjustment for low back pain including an April 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Spinal adjustment is also recommended as a first line treatment for low back pain, according to new guidelines published by the American College of Physicians in February 2017.