The Cost-effectiveness of Chiropractic Care for Back and Neck Pain

As health care costs continue to escalate, insurance companies, policy-makers- and many health care providers- have begun to embrace the idea of more conservative approaches to the treatment of low back pain and neck pain. A study published in the October 2005 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Psychological Therapeutics compare chiropractic care to medical care in the treatment of back and neck pain, with results demonstrating that chiropractic appears to offer benefits identical or superior to those provided by medical care, while reducing many of the costs and extraneous procedures associated with the medical approach to back and neck pain treatment.

In the study, researchers examined the cost-effectiveness of chiropractic care compared to medical care for the treatment of low back pain, using questionnaires obtained from almost 2700 people in Oregon and Washington. All of the patients were at least 18 years old, suffered from acute or chronic low back pain of mechanical origin, and saw either a doctor of chiropractic or a medical doctor for care.
The treatment delivered by chiropractors appeared to be much more effective.

At 12 months, the cost-effectiveness of chiropractic care for chronic low back pain patient appeared most evident. Even more important, chiropractic patients reported far greater satisfaction with the care they received – an average of 18.1 points higher than patients receiving medical care.

“Chiropractic patients with chronic LBP showed an advantage over medical patients in pain, disability, and satisfaction outcomes without additional costs”, the authors wrote in their conclusion.

Luo X, Pietrobon R, Sun SX, et al. Estimates and patterns of direct health care expenditures among individuals with back pain in the United States. Spine 2004;29:79-86.
Medical Data International, Market and Technology Reports. U.S. Markets for Pain Management Products, Report RP-821922, June 1999.
Nelson CF, Metz RD, LaBrot T. Effects of a managed chiropractic benefit on the use of specific diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in the treatment of low back and neck pain. Journal of Manipulative & Psychological Therapeutics October 2005;28:564-569
Haas M, Sharma R, Stano M. Cost-effectiveness of medical and chiropractic care for acute and chronic low back pain. Journal of Manipulative & Psychological Therapeutics October 2005;28:555-563.

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