Background: The involvement of inflammatory components in the pathophysiology of low back pain is poorly understood. It has been suggested that spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) may exert anti-inflammatory effects.
Purpose: To determine the involvement of inflammation-associated chemokines (CC series) in the pathogenesis of non-specific low back pain and to evaluate the effect of SMT on that process.
Methods: Patients presenting with non-radicular, non-specific low back pain (minimum pain score 3 on 10 point visual analogue scale, VAS) were recruited according to stringent inclusion criteria. They were evaluated for appropriateness to treat using a high velocity low amplitude manipulative thrust (HVLT) in the lumbar-lumbosacral region. Blood samples were obtained at baseline and following the administration of a series of 6 HVLTs on alternate days over the period of two weeks. The in vitro levels of CC chemokines (CCL2, CCL3 and CCL4) production and plasma levels of an inflammatory biomarker, soluble E-selectin, were determined at baseline and at the termination of treatments two weeks later.
Results: Compared with asymptomatic controls baseline production of all chemokines was significantly elevated in acute (P=0.004 - <0.0001), and that of CCL2 and CCL4 in chronic LBP patients (P<0.0001). Furthermore, CCL4 production was significantly higher (P<0.0001) in the acute versus chronic LBP group. sE-selectin levels were significantly higher (P=0.003) in chronic but not in acute LBP patients. Following SMT, patient reported outcomes showed significant (P<0.0001) improvements in VAS and ODI scores. This was accompanied by a significant decline in CCL 3 production (P<0.0001) in both groups of patients. Change scores for CCL4 production differed significantly (P<0.0001) only for the acute LBP cohort, and no effect on the production of CCL2 or plasma sE-selectin levels was noted in either group.
Conclusion: The production of chemotactic cytokines is significantly and protractedly elevated in LBP patients. Changes in chemokine production levels, which might be related to SMT, differ in the acute and chronic LBP patient cohorts.
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