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Back pain and chiropractic care

In United States, back pain is the second leading reason people visit their physicians. It is also the most prevalent chronic medical problem, and the number one cause of long-term disability. Epidemiologic studies indicate an upward trend for back pain suffered by both men and women. This trend is likely to continue as the average age of the US population increases. Ten years ago that the expenditure for chronic back pain was estimated to $50 billion to $100 billion per year. This expense will increase every year.

Patient characteristics, utilization and costs of back pain

There is evidence that supports the efficacy of chiropractic care to cure back pain. Some comprehensive reviews of the literature for low back pain and other similar conditions, using randomized control trials show chiropractic spinal manipulation to be better than conventional treatment. Clinical trials, case control studies and meta analyses reflect favorably on the efficacy of the chiropractic care relative to conventional medical treatment for back pain. While there are a small amount of complications from chiropractic spinal manipulation, chiropractic treatment is associated with a relatively low risk level  that is on par with conventional medical treatment.

Cost effectiveness of chiropractic treatment for back pain

Several studies compared the cost effectiveness of chiropractic against medical management. In the study of Stano and colleagues and other study by Dean and Schmids they reported on the cost benefits of chiropractic care compared with medical treatment for neuromuscular conditions.

Chiropractors now represent the third largest segment of health care practitioners in the United States with 50,000 practitioners in 2000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the American  Chiropractic Association, an estimated 21 million to 28 million people now receive chiropractic services each year, with approximately 192 million annual visits to DCs: between1990 and 1997, chiropractic use increased from10% to 11%.2. With growing public demand, the profession is also expected to increase 21% to 35% by 2008.

Most groups have insurance coverage and direct access to a chiropractor without physician referral. This benefit plan can help the patient visit chiropractic offices, with the same costs and benefits as a standard medical clinic.

Access to managed chiropractic care may reduce overall health care expenditures through several effects, including:

  • Positive risk selection
  • Substitutionof chiropractic for traditional medical care, particularlyfor spine conditions
  • More conservative, lessinvasive treatment profiles
  • Lower health servicecosts associated with managed chiropractic care.

Systematicaccess to managed chiropractic care not only mayprove to be clinically beneficial but also may reduce overallhealth care costs.

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