By Joseph D. Kurnik, DC

Traditional non-drug treatments for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) include proper food selection and supplementation. These approaches can be useful to some degree or may even completely solve the problem. Medications may be necessary in extreme cases, especially if significant inflammation or infection is involved. However, the usefulness of medications always must be evaluated in relation to the unwanted effects.

Another potential factor that can cause or affect IBS is spinal integrity. This is a subject that is poorly represented in practice and in literature, and appears to be a topic that is avoided. However, the subject of manipulation and IBS or pseudo IBS has been presented in a practical manner by Dr. Robert Maigne, a French physician and manipulative practitioner. In his text on spinal manipulation, Diagnosis and Treatment of Pain of Vertebral Origin, he makes specific references to the thoracolumbar syndrome. The syndrome involves the mechanical dysfunction of the thoracolumbar junction, typically the T12/L1 and L1/L2 spinal levels. This may broaden to include T11/12 and L2/3 levels in some individuals.

Dysfunction and/or irritability to nerve roots of those levels (mainly T12 and L1 roots) can cause low back, hip, groin, thigh and pelvic complaints. One of the pelvic complaints reported by Dr. Maigne as a result of his research and practical observations is an irritable bowel disorder, which he referred to as a pseudo disorder secondary to nerve root disturbances. Often, genitourinary complaints were observed. Most often, the pelvic complaints ended up being examined and treated as primary complaints, unsuccessfully.

When a cause of such complaints was spinal, there was rarely any complaint or mention of back pain, soreness or other back complaints in the thoracolumbar region. Treatment by manipulation to the thoracolumbar region when dysfunction was recognized often resulted in improvement or alleviation of the complaints.

My point is that taking the above into consideration, the treatment of IBS should include spinal evaluation.