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Chiropractic Care

Library of Research Articles on Veterans and CIH Therapies

January 2021 Edition

Chiropractic Care

Chapman C, Bakkum BW. Chiropractic management of a US Army veteran with low back pain and piriformis syndrome complicated by an anatomical anomaly of the piriformis muscle: a case study. J Chiropr Med. 2012 Mar;11(1):24-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jcm.2011.06.011.


The purpose of this article is to present the case of a patient with an anatomical anomaly of the piriformis muscle who had a piriformis syndrome and was managed with chiropractic care.

Case Report

A 32-year-old male patient presented to a chiropractic clinic with a chief complaint of low back pain that radiated into his right buttock, right posterior thigh, and right posterior calf. The complaint began 5 years prior as a result of injuries during Airborne School in the US Army resulting in a 60% disability rating from the Veterans Administration. Magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated a mildly decreased intradiscal T2 signal with shallow central subligamentous disk displacement and low-grade facet arthropathy at L5/S1, a hypolordotic lumbar curvature, and accessory superior bundles of the right piriformis muscle without morphologic magnetic resonance imaging evidence of piriformis syndrome.

Intervention and Outcome

Chiropractic treatment included lumbar and sacral spinal manipulation with soft tissue massage to associated musculature and home exercise recommendations. Variations from routine care included proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretches, electric muscle stimulation, acupressure point stimulation, Sacro Occipital Technique pelvic blocking, CranioSacral therapy, and an ergonomic evaluation.


A patient with a piriformis anomaly with symptoms of low back pain and piriformis syndrome responded positively to conservative chiropractic care, although the underlying cause of the piriformis syndrome remained.

Coleman BC, Corcoran KL, DeRycke EC, Bastian LA, Brandt CA, Haskell SG, Heapy AA, Lisi AJ. Factors Associated With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Veterans of Recent Wars Receiving Veterans Affairs Chiropractic Care. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2020 Oct;43(8):753-759.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is thought to complicate pain management outcomes, which is consistent with the impact of other psychosocial factors in the biopsychosocial model of pain. This study aimed to identify patient sociodemographic and clinical characteristics associated with PTSD prevalence among veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND) who received Veterans Affairs (VA) chiropractic care.


A cross-sectional analysis of electronic health record data from a national cohort study of OEF/OIF/OND veterans with at least 1 visit to a VA chiropractic clinic from 2001 to 2014 was performed. The primary outcome measure was a prior PTSD diagnosis. Variables including sex, race, age, body mass index, pain intensity, alcohol and substance use disorders, and smoking status were examined in association with PTSD diagnosis using logistic regression.


We identified 14,025 OEF/OIF/OND veterans with at least 1 VA chiropractic visit, with a mean age of 38 years and 54.2% having a diagnosis of PTSD. Male sex (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.23, 95% CI = 1.11-1.37), younger age (OR = 0.99, CI = 0.98-0.99), moderate-to-severe pain intensity (numerical rating scale ≥ 4) (OR = 1.72, CI = 1.59-1.87), body mass index ≥ 30 (OR = 1.34, CI = 1.24-1.45), current smoking (OR = 1.32, CI = 1.20-1.44), and having an alcohol or substance use disorder (OR = 4.51, CI = 4.01-5.08) were significantly associated with a higher likelihood of PTSD diagnosis.


Post-traumatic stress disorder is a common comorbidity among OEF/OIF/OND veterans receiving VA chiropractic care and is significantly associated with several patient characteristics. Recognition of these factors is important for the appropriate diagnosis and management of veterans with PTSD seeking chiropractic treatment for pain conditions.

Corcoran KL, Dunn AS, Formolo LR, Beehler GP. Chiropractic Management for US Female Veterans With Low Back Pain: A Retrospective Study of Clinical Outcomes. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2017 Oct;40(8):573-579. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2017.07.001. PubMed PMID: 29187308.


The purpose of this study was to determine if female US veterans had clinically significant improvement in low back pain after chiropractic management.


This is a retrospective chart review of 70 courses of care for female veterans with a chief complaint of low back pain who received chiropractic management through the VA Western New York Healthcare System in Buffalo, New York. A paired t test was used to compare baseline and discharge outcomes for the Back Bournemouth Questionnaire. The minimum clinically important difference was set as a 30% improvement in the outcome measure from baseline to discharge.


The average patient was 44.8 years old, overweight (body mass index 29.1 kg/m2), and white (86%). The mean number of chiropractic treatments was 7.9. Statistical significance was found for the Back Bournemouth Questionnaire outcomes. The mean raw score improvement was 12.4 points (P < .001), representing a 27.3% change from baseline with 47% of courses of care meeting or exceeding the minimum clinically important difference.


For our sample of female veterans with low back pain, clinical outcomes from baseline to discharge improved under chiropractic care. Although further research is warranted, chiropractic care may be of value in contributing to the pain management needs of this unique patient population

Corcoran KL, Dunn AS, Green BN, Formolo LR, Beehler GP. Changes in female veterans' neck pain following chiropractic care at a hospital for veterans. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2018 Feb;30:91-95. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2017.12.013. Epub 2017 Dec 13. PubMed PMID: 29389486.


To determine if U.S. female veterans had demonstrable improvements in neck pain after chiropractic management at a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital.


This was a retrospective cross-sectional study of medical records from female veterans attending a VA chiropractic clinic for neck pain from 2009 to 2015. Paired t-tests were used to compare baseline and discharge numeric rating scale (NRS) and Neck Bournemouth Questionnaire (NBQ) scores with a minimum clinically important difference (MCID) set at a 30% change from baseline.


Thirty-four veterans met the inclusion criteria and received a mean of 8.8 chiropractic treatments. For NRS, the mean score improvement was 2.7 (95%CI, 1.9-3.5, p < .001). For the NBQ, the mean score improvement was 13.7 (95%CI, 9.9-17.5, p < .001). For the MCID, the average percent improvement was 45% for the NRS and 38% for the NBQ.


Female veterans with neck pain experienced a statistically and clinically significant reduction in NRS and NBQ scores.

Dougherty PE, Karuza J, Dunn AS, Savino D, Katz P.  Spinal Manipulative Therapy for Chronic Lower Back Pain in Older Veterans: A Prospective, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.  Geriatr Orthop Surg Rehabil. 2014 Dec


Chronic lower back pain (CLBP) is problematic in older veterans. Spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) is commonly utilized for CLBP in older adults, yet there are few randomized placebo-controlled trials evaluating SMT.


The purpose of the study was to compare the effectiveness of SMT to a sham intervention on pain (Visual Analogue Scale, SF-36 pain subscale), disability (Oswestry Disability Index), and physical function (SF-36 subscale, Timed Up and Go) by performing a randomized placebo-controlled trial at 2 Veteran Affairs Clinics.


Older veterans (≥ 65 years of age) who were naive to chiropractic were recruited. A total of 136 were included in the study with 69 being randomly assigned to SMT and 67 to sham intervention. Patients were treated 2 times per week for 4 weeks assessing outcomes at baseline, 5, and 12 weeks postbaseline. Both groups demonstrated significant decrease in pain and disability at 5 and 12 weeks. At 12 weeks, there was no significant difference in pain and a statistically significant decline in disability scores in the SMT group when compared to the sham intervention group. There were no significant differences in adverse events between the groups.


The SMT did not result in greater improvement in pain when compared to our sham intervention; however, SMT did demonstrate a slightly greater improvement in disability at 12 weeks. The fact that patients in both groups showed improvements suggests the presence of a nonspecific therapeutic effect.

Dunn AS, Baylis S, Ryan D. Chiropractic management of mechanical low back pain secondary to multiple-level lumbar spondylolysis with spondylolisthesis in a United States Marine Corps veteran: a case report. J Chiropr Med. 2009 Sep;8(3):125-30. doi: 10.1016/j.jcm.2009.04.003.

This case report describes the evaluation and conservative management of mechanical low back pain secondary to multiple-level lumbar spondylolysis with spondylolisthesis in a United States Marine Corps veteran within a Veterans Affairs Medical Center chiropractic clinic.

The 43-year-old patient had a 20-year history of mechanical back pain secondary to an injury sustained during active military duty. He had intermittent radiation of numbness and tingling involving the right lower extremity distal to the knee. Radiographs of the lumbosacral region demonstrated a grade I spondylolisthesis of L3 in relation to L4 and a grade II spondylolisthesis of L4 in relation to L5 secondary to bilateral pars interarticularis defects. There was marked narrowing of the L4-5 disk space with associated subchondral sclerosis.

A course of conservative management consisting of 10 treatments including lumbar flexion/distraction and activity modification was provided over an 8-week period. Despite the long-standing nature of the complaint and underlying multiple-level lumbar spondylolysis with spondylolisthesis, there was a 25% reduction in low back pain severity on the numeric rating scale and a 22% reduction in perceived disability related to low back pain on the Revised Oswestry Disability Questionnaire.

Conservative management is considered to be the standard of care for spondylolysis and should be explored in its various forms for symptomatic low back pain patients who present without neurologic deficits and with spondylolisthesis below grade III. The response to treatment for the veteran patient in this case suggests that lumbar flexion/distraction may serve as a safe and effective component of conservative management of mechanical low back pain for some patients with spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis.

Dunn AS, Green BN, Formolo LR, Chicoine DR. Chiropractic management for veterans with neck pain: a retrospective study of clinical outcomes. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2011 Oct;34(8):533-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2011.08.009. Epub 2011 Sep 9.


The purpose of this study was to report demographic characteristics, chiropractic treatment methods and frequency, and clinical outcomes for chiropractic management of neck pain in a sample of veteran patients.


This is a retrospective case series of 54 veterans with a chief complaint of neck pain who received chiropractic care through a Veterans Health Administration medical center. Descriptive statistics and paired t tests were used with the numeric rating scale and Neck Bournemouth Questionnaire serving as the outcome measures. A minimum clinically important difference was set as 30% improvement from baseline for both outcomes.


The mean number of chiropractic treatments was 8.7. For the numeric rating scale, the mean raw score improvement was 2.6 points, representing 43% change from baseline. For the Neck Bournemouth Questionnaire, the mean raw score improvement was 13.9 points, representing 33% change from baseline. For both measures, 36 (67%) patients met or exceeded the minimum clinically important difference.


Mean chiropractic clinical outcomes were both statistically significant and clinically meaningful for this sample of veterans presenting with neck pain.

Dunn AS, Passmore SR, Burke J, Chicoine D. A cross-sectional analysis of clinical outcomes following chiropractic care in veterans with and without post-traumatic stress disorder. Mil Med. 2009 Jun;174(6):578-83.

This study was a cross-sectional analysis of clinical outcomes for 130 veteran patients with neck or low back complaints completing a course of care within the chiropractic clinic at the VA of Western New York in 2006. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was utilized, comparing baseline and discharge scores for both the neck and low back regions and for those patients with and without post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Patients with PTSD (n = 21) experienced significantly lower levels of score improvement than those without PTSD (n = 119) on self-reported outcome measures of neck and low back disability. These findings, coupled with the theorized relationships between PTSD and chronic pain, suggest that the success of conservative forms of management for veteran patients with musculoskeletal disorders may be limited by the presence of PTSD. Further research is warranted to examine the potential contributions of PTSD on chiropractic clinical outcomes with this unique patient population.

Flynn D, Eaton LH, Langford DJ, Ieronimakis N, McQuinn H, Burney RO, Holmes SL, Doorenbos AZ.  A SMART design to determine the optimal treatment of chronic pain among military personnel. Contemp Clin Trials. 2018 Oct;73:68-74. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2018.08.008. Epub 2018 Aug 24.

Chronic pain is a leading cause of disability among active duty service members in the U.S. armed forces. Standard rehabilitative care and complementary and integrative health therapies are used for chronic pain rehabilitation. However, the optimal sequence and duration of these therapies has yet to be determined. This article describes a sequential multiple assignment randomized trial (SMART) protocol being used to identify the optimal components and sequence of standard rehabilitative care and complementary and integrative health therapies for reducing pain impact and improving other patient outcomes. Active duty service members referred to Madigan Army Medical Center for treatment of chronic pain are being recruited to the Determinants of the Optimal Dose and Sequence of Functional Restoration and Integrative Therapies study. Study participants are randomized to either standard rehabilitative care (physical and occupational therapy and psychoeducation) or complementary and integrative health therapies (chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga and psychoeducation). Those participants who do not respond to the first 3 weeks of treatment are randomized to receive an additional 3 weeks of either (1) the alternative treatment or (2) the first-stage treatment plus the alternative treatment. This study will also determine factors associated with treatment response that can support clinical decision making, such as baseline fitness, pain catastrophizing, kinesiophobia, post-traumatic stress, pain self-efficacy, and biological indicators. The information gained from this research will be applicable to all integrative chronic pain rehabilitation programs throughout the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the broader rehabilitation community.

Flynn DM, McQuinn H, Fairchok A, Eaton LH, Langford DJ, Snow T, Doorenbos AZ. Enhancing the success of functional restoration using complementary and integrative therapies: Protocol and challenges of a comparative effectiveness study in active duty service members with chronic pain. Contemp Clin Trials Commun. 2018

Chronic pain significantly impairs physical, psychological and social functioning. Among military populations, pain due to injuries sustained both on and off the battlefield is a leading cause of short and long-term disability. Improving the quality of pain care for active duty service members is a major priority of the Department of Defense. This article describes an ongoing comparative effectiveness study which aims to (1) evaluate the benefit of a multimodal complementary and integrative health (CIH) pain management program when added to standard rehabilitative care (SRC) prior to an intensive functional restoration (FR) program compared to SRC alone, and (2) identify factors that predict improvement in pain impact following treatment completion. Using a randomized controlled trial design, active duty service members with pain related to musculoskeletal injury are assigned to a 3-week course of either SRC or SRC combined with CIH therapies prior to beginning a 3-week course of FR. Outcomes are collected at baseline, at the end of stage 1 treatment, post-FR, and at 3- and 6-months post-FR. Outcome measures include provider-measured functional assessments and patient-reported assessment through the Pain Assessment Screening Tool and Outcomes Registry (PASTOR). The military health system provides a supportive environment for implementation of this research protocol. Challenges to conducting the study have included new technology systems at the study site, slower than projected enrollment, and program delivery issues. These challenges have been successfully managed and have not significantly impacted study participant enrollment and completion of study treatments.

Goertz CM, Long CR, Vining RD, Pohlman KA, Walter J, Coulter I.  Effect of Usual Medical Care Plus Chiropractic Care vs Usual Medical Care Alone on Pain and Disability Among US Service Members With Low Back Pain: A Comparative Effectiveness Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2018 May 18;1(1):e180105. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0105.


To determine whether the addition of chiropractic care to usual medical care results in better pain relief and pain-related function when compared with usual medical care alone.

Design, Setting, and Participants

A 3-site pragmatic comparative effectiveness clinical trial using adaptive allocation was conducted from September 28, 2012, to February 13, 2016, at 2 large military medical centers in major metropolitan areas and 1 smaller hospital at a military training site. Eligible participants were active-duty US service members aged 18 to 50 years with low back pain from a musculoskeletal source.


The intervention period was 6 weeks. Usual medical care included self-care, medications, physical therapy, and pain clinic referral. Chiropractic care included spinal manipulative therapy in the low back and adjacent regions and additional therapeutic procedures such as rehabilitative exercise, cryotherapy, superficial heat, and other manual therapies.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Coprimary outcomes were low back pain intensity (Numerical Rating Scale; scores ranging from 0 [no low back pain] to 10 [worst possible low back pain]) and disability (Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire; scores ranging from 0-24, with higher scores indicating greater disability) at 6 weeks. Secondary outcomes included perceived improvement, satisfaction (Numerical Rating Scale; scores ranging from 0 [not at all satisfied] to 10 [extremely satisfied]), and medication use. The coprimary outcomes were modeled with linear mixed-effects regression over baseline and weeks 2, 4, 6, and 12.


Of the 806 screened patients who were recruited through either clinician referrals or self-referrals, 750 were enrolled (250 at each site). The mean (SD) participant age was 30.9 (8.7) years, 175 participants (23.3%) were female, and 243 participants (32.4%) were nonwhite. Statistically significant site × time × group interactions were found in all models. Adjusted mean differences in scores at week 6 were statistically significant in favor of usual medical care plus chiropractic care compared with usual medical care alone overall for low back pain intensity (mean difference, -1.1; 95% CI, -1.4 to -0.7), disability (mean difference, -2.2; 95% CI, -3.1 to -1.2), and satisfaction (mean difference, 2.5; 95% CI, 2.1 to 2.8) as well as at each site. Adjusted odd ratios at week 6 were also statistically significant in favor of usual medical care plus chiropractic care overall for perceived improvement (odds ratio = 0.18; 95% CI, 0.13-0.25) and self-reported pain medication use (odds ratio = 0.73; 95% CI, 0.54-0.97). No serious related adverse events were reported.

Conclusions and Relevance

Chiropractic care, when added to usual medical care, resulted in moderate short-term improvements in low back pain intensity and disability in active-duty military personnel. This trial provides additional support for the inclusion of chiropractic care as a component of multidisciplinary health care for low back pain, as currently recommended in existing guidelines. However, study limitations illustrate that further research is needed to understand longer-term outcomes as well as how patient heterogeneity and intervention variations affect patient responses to chiropractic care.

Green BN, Johnson CD, Daniels CJ, Napuli JG, Gliedt JA, Paris DJ. Integration of Chiropractic Services in Military and Veteran Health Care Facilities: A Systematic Review of the Literature. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2016

This literature review examined studies that described practice, utilization, and policy of chiropractic services within military and veteran health care environments. A systematic search of Medline, CINAHL, and Index to Chiropractic Literature was performed from inception through April 2015. Thirty articles met inclusion criteria. Studies reporting utilization and policy show that chiropractic services are successfully implemented in various military and veteran health care settings and that integration varies by facility. Doctors of chiropractic that are integrated within military and veteran health care facilities manage common neurological, musculoskeletal, and other conditions; severe injuries obtained in combat; complex cases; and cases that include psychosocial factors. Chiropractors collaboratively manage patients with other providers and focus on reducing morbidity for veterans and rehabilitating military service members to full duty status. Patient satisfaction with chiropractic services is high. Preliminary findings show that chiropractic management of common conditions shows significant improvement.

Khorsan R, Cohen AB, Lisi AJ, Smith MM, Delevan D, Armstrong C, Mittman BS. Mixed-Methods Research in a Complex Multisite VA Health Services Study: Variations in the Implementation and Characteristics of Chiropractic Services in VA. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:701280. doi: 10.1155/2013/701280. Epub 2013 Dec 31.

Maximizing the quality and benefits of newly established chiropractic services represents an important policy and practice goal for the US Department of Veterans Affairs' healthcare system. Understanding the implementation process and characteristics of new chiropractic clinics and the determinants and consequences of these processes and characteristics is a critical first step in guiding quality improvement. This paper reports insights and lessons learned regarding the successful application of mixed methods research approaches-insights derived from a study of chiropractic clinic implementation and characteristics, Variations in the Implementation and Characteristics of Chiropractic Services in VA (VICCS). Challenges and solutions are presented in areas ranging from selection and recruitment of sites and participants to the collection and analysis of varied data sources. The VICCS study illustrates the importance of several factors in successful mixed-methods approaches, including (1) the importance of a formal, fully developed logic model to identify and link data sources, variables, and outcomes of interest to the study's analysis plan and its data collection instruments and codebook and (2) ensuring that data collection methods, including mixed-methods, match study aims. Overall, successful application of a mixed-methods approach requires careful planning, frequent trade-offs, and complex coding and analysis.

Lisi AJ, Brandt CA. Trends in the Use and Characteristics of Chiropractic Services in the Department of Veterans Affairs. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2016 Jun;39(5):381-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2016.04.005. PubMed PMID: 27288324.


The purpose of this study was to analyze national trends and key features of the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA's) chiropractic service delivery and chiropractic provider workforce since their initial inception.


This was a serial cross-sectional analysis of the VA administrative data sampled from the first record of chiropractic services in VA through September 30, 2015. Data were obtained from VA's Corporate Data Warehouse and analyzed with descriptive statistics.


From October 1, 2004, through September 30, 2015, the annual number of patients seen in VA chiropractic clinics increased from 4052 to 37349 (821.7%), and the annual number of chiropractic visits increased from 20072 to 159366 (693.9%). The typical VA chiropractic patient is male, is between the ages of 45 and 64, is seen for low back and/or neck conditions, and receives chiropractic spinal manipulation and evaluation and management services. The total number of VA chiropractic clinics grew from 27 to 65 (9.4% annually), and the number of chiropractor employees grew from 13 to 86 (21.3% annually). The typical VA chiropractor employee is a 45.9-year-old man, has worked in VA for 4.5 years, and receives annual compensation of $97860. VA also purchased care from private sector chiropractors starting in 2000, growing to 159533 chiropractic visits for 19435 patients at a cost of $11155654 annually.


Use of chiropractic services and the chiropractic workforce in VA have grown substantially over more than a decade since their introduction.

Lisi AJ, Corcoran KL, DeRycke EC, Bastian LA, Becker WC, Edmond SN, Goertz CM, Goulet JL, Haskell SG, Higgins DM, Kawecki T, Kerns RD, Mattocks K, Ramsey C, Ruser CB, Brandt CA. Opioid Use Among Veterans of Recent Wars Receiving Veterans Affairs Chiropractic Care. Pain Med. 2018 Sep 1;19(suppl_1):S54-S60. doi: PubMed PMID: 30203014.


To examine patient sociodemographic and clinical characteristics associated with opioid use among Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND) who receive chiropractic care, and to explore the relationship between timing of a chiropractic visit and receipt of an opioid prescription.


Cross-sectional analysis of administrative data on OEF/OIF/OND veterans who had at least one visit to a Veterans Affairs (VA) chiropractic clinic between 2004 and 2014. Opioid receipt was defined as at least one prescription within a window of 90 days before to 90 days after the index chiropractic clinic visit.


We identified 14,025 OEF/OIF/OND veterans with at least one chiropractic visit, and 4,396 (31.3%) of them also received one or more opioid prescriptions. Moderate/severe pain (odds ratio [OR] = 1.87, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.72-2.03), PTSD (OR = 1.55, 95% CI = 1.41-1.69), depression (OR = 1.40, 95% CI = 1.29-1.53), and current smoking (OR = 1.39, 95% CI = 1.26-1.52) were associated with a higher likelihood of receiving an opioid prescription. The percentage of veterans receiving opioid prescriptions was lower in each of the three 30-day time frames assessed after the index chiropractic visit than before.


Nearly one-third of OEF/OIF/OND veterans receiving VA chiropractic services also received an opioid prescription, yet the frequency of opioid prescriptions was lower after the index chiropractic visit than before. Further study is warranted to assess the relationship between opioid use and chiropractic care.

Lisi AJ, Khorsan R, Smith MM, Mittman BS.  Variations in the implementation and characteristics of chiropractic services in VA. Med Care. 2014 Dec;52(12 Suppl 5):S97-104. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000235.


In 2004, the US Department of Veterans Affairs expanded its delivery of chiropractic care by establishing onsite chiropractic clinics at select facilities across the country. Systematic information regarding the planning and implementation of these clinics and describing their features and performance is lacking.


To document the planning, implementation, key features and performance of VA chiropractic clinics, and to identify variations and their underlying causes and key consequences as well as their implications for policy, practice, and research on the introduction of new clinical services into integrated health care delivery systems.


Comparative case study of 7 clinics involving site visit-based and telephone-based interviews with 118 key stakeholders, including VA clinicians, clinical leaders and administrative staff, and selected external stakeholders, as well as reviews of key documents and administrative data on clinic performance and service delivery. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using a mixed inductive (exploratory) and deductive approach.


Interview data revealed considerable variations in clinic planning and implementation processes and clinic features, as well as perceptions of clinic performance and quality. Administrative data showed high variation in patterns of clinic patient care volume over time. A facility's initial willingness to establish a chiropractic clinic, along with a higher degree of perceived evidence-based and collegial attributes of the facility chiropractor, emerged as key factors associated with higher and more consistent delivery of chiropractic services and higher perceived quality of those services.

Lisi AJ, Salsbury SA, Hawk C, Vining RD, Wallace RB, Branson R, Long CR, Burgo-Black AL, Goertz CM. Chiropractic Integrated Care Pathway for Low Back Pain in Veterans: Results of a Delphi Consensus Process. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2018 Feb;41(2):137-148. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2017.10.001. PubMed PMID: 29482827; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6103526.


The purpose of this study was to develop an integrated care pathway for doctors of chiropractic, primary care providers, and mental health professionals who manage veterans with low back pain, with or without mental health comorbidity, within Department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities.


The research method used was a consensus process. A multidisciplinary investigative team reviewed clinical guidelines and Veterans Affairs pain and mental health initiatives to develop seed statements and care algorithms to guide chiropractic management and collaborative care of veterans with low back pain. A 5-member advisory committee approved initial recommendations. Veterans Affairs-based panelists (n = 58) evaluated the pathway via e-mail using a modified RAND/UCLA methodology. Consensus was defined as agreement by 80% of panelists.


The modified Delphi process was conducted in July to December 2016. Most (93%) seed statements achieved consensus during the first round, with all statements reaching consensus after 2 rounds. The final care pathway addressed the topics of informed consent, clinical evaluation including history and examination, screening for red flags, documentation, diagnostic imaging, patient-reported outcomes, adverse event reporting, chiropractic treatment frequency and duration standards, tailored approaches to chiropractic care in veteran populations, and clinical presentation of common mental health conditions. Care algorithms outlined chiropractic case management and interprofessional collaboration and referrals between doctors of chiropractic and primary care and mental health providers.


This study offers an integrative care pathway that includes chiropractic care for veterans with low back pain.

Lisi AJ. Management of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans in a VeteransHealth Administration chiropractic clinic: a case series. J Rehabil Res Dev. 2010;47(1):1-6.

Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) veterans commonly seek care for musculoskeletal complaints in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities. Chiropractic services for musculoskeletal conditions have recently been introduced to VHA. No reports have been published on chiropractic care for OIF/OEF veterans. This study was designed to describe elements of the processes and outcomes of care for OIF/OEF veterans in a VHA chiropractic clinic. A retrospective review of consecutive cases consulted to one VHA chiropractic clinic was conducted. Thirty-one cases were identified. Consultations originated in primary care and specialty clinics that commonly manage musculoskeletal conditions. Military traumatic injury and posttraumatic stress disorder were common. Adverse effects of treatment were mild and transitory. In 19 cases (61%), a pain decrease above the threshold for minimally important change was reported. This article is the first description of health services delivered to OIF/OEF veterans in a VHA chiropractic clinic. Chiropractic management was safe in these cases, and results support the hypothesis that such management may be effective in certain OIF/OIF veterans. A better understanding of the characteristics of these particular patients and the processes of care received in VHA chiropractic clinics is needed to improve the clinical care of these veterans.

Okamoto CS, Dunn AS, Green BN, Formolo LR, Chicoine D.  Correlation of Body Composition and Low Back Pain Severity in a Cross-Section of US Veterans. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2017 Jun;40(5):358-364. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2017.03.003. Epub 2017 May 26.


Back pain is more prevalent in the obese, but whether back pain severity is directly correlated to obesity in veterans is unknown. We sought to determine if there was a correlation between body composition and low back pain severity in a sample of veterans. The hypothesis was that veterans with higher body mass index values would report higher low back pain severity scores.


This study was a retrospective chart review of 1768 veterans presenting to a Veterans Affairs chiropractic clinic with a chief complaint of low back pain between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2014. Spearman's rho was used to test for correlation between body composition as measured by body mass index and low back pain severity as measured by the Back Bournemouth Questionnaire.


On average, the sample was predominantly male (91%), older than 50, and overweight (36.5%) or obese (48.9%). There was no correlation between body mass index and Back Bournemouth Questionnaire scores, r = .088, p < .001.


The majority of veterans with low back pain in this sample were either overweight or obese. There was no correlation between body composition and low back pain severity in this sample of veterans.

Paige NM, Miake-Lye IM, Booth MS, Beroes JM, Mardian AS, Dougherty P, Branson R, Tang B, Morton SC, Shekelle PG. Association of Spinal Manipulative Therapy With Clinical Benefit and Harm for Acute Low Back Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2017 Apr 11;317(14):1451-1460. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.3086. Review. PubMed PMID: 28399251.

Acute low back pain is common and spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) is a treatment option. Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and meta-analyses have reported different conclusions about the effectiveness of SMT.

To systematically review studies of the effectiveness and harms of SMT for acute (≤6 weeks) low back pain.

Search of MEDLINE, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, EMBASE, and Current Nursing and Allied Health Literature from January 1, 2011, through February 6, 2017, as well as identified systematic reviews and RCTs, for RCTs of adults with low back pain treated in ambulatory settings with SMT compared with sham or alternative treatments, and that measured pain or function outcomes for up to 6 weeks. Observational studies were included to assess harms.

Data extraction was done in duplicate. Study quality was assessed using the Cochrane Back and Neck (CBN) Risk of Bias tool. This tool has 11 items in the following domains: randomization, concealment, baseline differences, blinding (patient), blinding (care provider [care provider is a specific quality metric used by the CBN Risk of Bias tool]), blinding (outcome), co-interventions, compliance, dropouts, timing, and intention to treat. Prior research has shown the CBN Risk of Bias tool identifies studies at an increased risk of bias using a threshold of 5 or 6 as a summary score. The evidence was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) criteria.

Pain (measured by either the 100-mm visual analog scale, 11-point numeric rating scale, or other numeric pain scale), function (measured by the 24-point Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire or Oswestry Disability Index [range, 0-100]), or any harms measured within 6 weeks.

Of 26 eligible RCTs identified, 15 RCTs (1711 patients) provided moderate-quality evidence that SMT has a statistically significant association with improvements in pain (pooled mean improvement in the 100-mm visual analog pain scale, -9.95 [95% CI, -15.6 to -4.3]). Twelve RCTs (1381 patients) produced moderate-quality evidence that SMT has a statistically significant association with improvements in function (pooled mean effect size, -0.39 [95% CI, -0.71 to -0.07]). Heterogeneity was not explained by type of clinician performing SMT, type of manipulation, study quality, or whether SMT was given alone or as part of a package of therapies. No RCT reported any serious adverse event. Minor transient adverse events such as increased pain, muscle stiffness, and headache were reported 50% to 67% of the time in large case series of patients treated with SMT.

Among patients with acute low back pain, spinal manipulative therapy was associated with modest improvements in pain and function at up to 6 weeks, with transient minor musculoskeletal harms. However, heterogeneity in study results was large.

Roberts JA, Wolfe TM. Chiropractic management of a veteran with lower back pain associated with diffuse idiopathic skeletal hypertrophy and degenerative disk disease. J Chiropr Med. 2012 Dec;11(4):293-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jcm.2012.10.007.


The purpose of this article is to report the response of chiropractic care of a geriatric veteran with degenerative disk disease and diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis.


A 74-year-old man presented with low back pain (LBP) and loss of feeling in his lower extremities for 3 months. The LBP was of insidious onset with a 10/10 pain rating on the numeric pain scale (NPS) and history of degenerative disk disease and diffuse idiopathic skeletal hypertrophy. Oswestry questionnaire was 44% and health status questionnaire was 52%, which were below average for his age. The patient presented with antalgia and severe difficulty with ambulation and thus used a walker.


Chiropractic care included Activator Methods protocol. Two weeks into treatment, he reported no back pain; and after 4 treatments, he was able to walk with a cane instead of a walker. The NPS decreased from a 10/10 to a 0/10, and his Revised Oswestry score decreased from 44/100 to 13.3/100. His Health Status Questionnaire score increased 25 points to 77/100, bringing him from below average for his age to above average for his age. Follow-up with the patient at approximately 1 year and 9 months showed an Oswestry score of 10/100 and a Health Status Questionnaire score of 67/100, still above average for his age.


The findings in this case study showed that Activator-assisted spinal manipulative therapy had positive subjective and objective results for LBP and ambulation in a geriatric veteran with degenerative disk disease and diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis.

Taylor SL, Hoggatt KJ, Kligler B. Complementary and Integrated Health Approaches: What Do Veterans Use and Want. J Gen Intern Med. 2019 Jul;34(7):1192-1199. doi: 10.1007/s11606-019-04862-6. Epub 2019 Apr 22.


Non-pharmacological treatment options for common conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, and depression are being given increased consideration in healthcare, especially given the recent emphasis to address the opioid crisis. One set of non-pharmacological treatment options are evidence-based complementary and integrative health (CIH) approaches, such as yoga, acupuncture, and meditation. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the nation's largest healthcare system, has been at the forefront of implementing CIH approaches, given their patients' high prevalence of pain, anxiety, and depression. We aimed to conduct the first national survey of veterans' interest in and use of CIH approaches.


Using a large national convenience sample of veterans who regularly use the VHA, we conducted the first national survey of veterans' interest in, frequency of and reasons for use of, and satisfaction with 26 CIH approaches (n = 3346, 37% response rate) in July 2017.


In the past year, 52% used any CIH approach, with 44% using massage therapy, 37% using chiropractic, 34% using mindfulness, 24% using other meditation, and 25% using yoga. For nine CIH approaches, pain and stress reduction/relaxation were the two most frequent reasons veterans gave for using them. Overall, 84% said they were interested in trying/learning more about at least one CIH approach, with about half being interested in six individual CIH approaches (e.g., massage therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology, and progressive relaxation). Veterans appeared to be much more likely to use each CIH approach outside the VHA vs. within the VHA.


Veterans report relatively high past-year use of CIH approaches and many more report interest in CIH approaches. To address this gap between patients' level of interest in and use of CIH approaches, primary care providers might want to discuss evidence-based CIH options to their patients for relevant health conditions, given most CIH approaches are safe.

Vining R, Minkalis A, Long CR, Corber L, Franklin C, Gudavalli MR, Xia T, Goertz CM. Assessment of chiropractic care on strength, balance, and endurance in active-duty U.S. military personnel with low back pain: a protocol for a randomized controlled trial.Trials. 2018 Dec 5;19(1):671. doi: 10.1186/s13063-018-3041-5. PubMed PMID: 30518400; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6280458.


Low back pain (LBP) is a common cause of disability among U.S. military personnel. Approximately 20% of all diagnoses resulting in disability discharges are linked to back-related conditions. Because LBP can negatively influence trunk muscle strength, balance, and endurance, the military readiness of active-duty military personnel with LBP is potentially compromised. Chiropractic care may facilitate the strengthening of trunk muscles, the alteration of sensory and motor signaling, and a reduction in pain sensitivity, which may contribute to improving strength, balance, and endurance for individuals with LBP. This trial will assess the effects of chiropractic care on strength, balance, and endurance for active-duty military personnel with LBP.


This randomized controlled trial will allocate 110 active-duty military service members aged 18-40 with non-surgical acute, subacute, or chronic LBP with pain severity of ≥2/10 within the past 24 h. All study procedures are conducted at a single military treatment facility within the continental United States. Participants are recruited through recruitment materials approved by the institutional review board, such as posters and flyers, as well as through provider referrals. Group assignment occurs through computer-generated random allocation to either the study intervention (chiropractic care) or the control group (waiting list) for a 4-week period. Chiropractic care consists primarily of spinal manipulation at a frequency and duration determined by a chiropractic practitioner. Strength, balance, and endurance outcomes are obtained at baseline and after 4 weeks. The primary outcome is a change between baseline and 4 weeks of peak isometric strength, which is measured by pulling on a bimanual handle in a semi-squat position. Secondary outcomes include balance time during a single-leg standing test and trunk muscle endurance with the Biering-Sorensen test. Patient-reported outcomes include pain severity, disability measured with the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire, symptom bothersomeness, PROMIS-29, Fear Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire, expectations of care, physical activity, and global improvement.


This trial may help inform further research on biological mechanisms related to manual therapies employed by chiropractic practitioners.

Vining RD, Shannon ZK, Salsbury SA, Corber L, Minkalis AL, Goertz CM. Development of a Clinical Decision Aid for Chiropractic Management of Common Conditions Causing Low Back Pain in Veterans: Results of a Consensus Process. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2019 Dec 18. pii: S0161-4754(18)30363-4.


The purpose of this study was to develop a clinical decision aid for chiropractic management of common conditions causing low back pain (LBP) in veterans receiving treatment in US Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities.


A consensus study using an online, modified Delphi technique and Research Electronic Data Capture web application was conducted among VA doctors of chiropractic. Investigators reviewed the scientific literature pertaining to diagnosis and treatment of nonsurgical, neuromusculoskeletal LBP. Thirty seed statements summarizing evidence for chiropractic management, a graphical stepped management tool outlining diagnosis-informed treatment approaches, and support materials were then reviewed by an expert advisory committee. Email notifications invited 113 VA chiropractic clinicians to participate as Delphi panelists. Panelists rated the appropriateness of the seed statements and the stepped process on a 1-to-9 scale using the RAND/University of California, Los Angeles methodology. Statements were accepted when both the median rating and 80% of all ratings occurred within the highly appropriate range.


Thirty-nine panelists (74% male) with a mean (standard deviation) age of 46 (11) years and clinical experience of 17 (11) years participated in the study. Accepted statements addressed included (1) essential components of chiropractic care, (2) treatments for conditions causing or contributing to LBP, (3) spinal manipulation mechanisms, (4) descriptions and mechanisms of commonly used chiropractic interventions, and (5) a graphical stepped clinical management tool.


This study group produced a chiropractic clinical decision aid for LBP management, which can be used to support evidence-based care decisions for veterans with LBP.