Q: I recently had another flare up of lower back pain and decided to try chiropractic this time instead of going to my medical provider again. I seemed to have a great result, but it seemed so much easier with the chiropractor. I wonder if there is information out there regarding the cost of chiropractic versus taking medicine for back pain. could it help the burden on our healthcare dollar to have chiropractors help with back pain more often?
A: I don’t know if there is information about specific medication use versus chiropractic, but there is comparison of the two models of care for back pain. While chiropractic and medical treatment of chronic low-back pain have comparable costs, the chiropractic treatment yielded significantly better results, according to a new study involving more than 2,700 patients in Oregon and Washington who compared treatment. Results were published October of 2009 in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.
Chiropractic care included spinal manipulation, physical therapies and exercise. Medical care included prescription drugs, exercise and, in about 25 percent of the cases, referral to a physical therapist.
Costs and patients’ conditions and satisfaction were measured at 3 and 12 months after the beginning of treatment. Office costs for chiropractic treatment were actually higher than those for medical care. However, when costs of advanced imaging and referrals to physical therapists and other care providers were added, chiropractic costs were 16 percent lower than medical care costs.
Both acute and chronic patients reported better outcomes in pain and disability reduction and general satisfaction after chiropractic treatment. So add cost-effectiveness to the benefits of chiropractic treatment for back pain.
Many of us are still not sure about what chiropractic is and how useful it can be. Please tell others about your experience because , “Yes!”, greater use of chiropractors for back pain in particular (also headache and neck pain), has been shown to reduce health care costs while achieving greater outcomes for patient satisfaction.