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PLoS One. 2018 Nov 2;13(11):e0206284. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0206284. eCollection 2018.

Osteopathic care for spinal complaints: A systematic literature review.

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Department of Public Health, Interuniversity Centre for Health Economics Research (I-CHER), Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
Department of Public Health, Interuniversity Centre for Health Economics Research (I-CHER), Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium.
Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
Commission for Osteopathic Research, Practice and Promotion vzw (CORPP), National Centre of COME Collaboration, Mechelen, Belgium.


The aim of the current study was to evaluate the literature examining the impact of osteopathic care for spinal complaints. The bibliographic databases Medline (Pubmed), Web of Science, Embase, and PEDro were searched. In addition, a number of grey literature sources were searched. Only randomized controlled trials conducted in high-income Western countries were considered. Two authors independently screened the titles and abstracts. Primary outcomes included 'pain' and 'functional status', while secondary outcomes included 'medication use' and 'health status'. It was examined if differences existed related to the treatment protocol and geography (European vs. US studies). Study quality was assessed using the risk of bias tool of the Cochrane Back Review Group. Nineteen studies were included and qualitatively synthesized. Nine studies were from the US, followed by Germany with seven studies. The majority of studies (n = 13) focused on low back pain. In general, mixed findings related to the impact of osteopathic care on primary and secondary outcomes were observed. For the primary outcomes, a clear distinction between US and European studies was found, in favor of the latter ones. Studies were characterized by substantial methodological differences in sample sizes, number of treatments, control groups, and follow-up. In conclusion, there is some evidence suggesting that osteopathic care may be effective for people suffering from spinal complaints. Further studies with larger study samples and assessment of long-term impact are required to further increase the evidence-based knowledge of the potential of osteopathic care for individuals suffering from spinal complaints.

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