Chiropractic Care May Reduce Surgeries, X-rays
Back Pain Treatment Less Costly With Chiropractic Care
Oct. 12, 2004 -- Chiropractic care cuts health care costs, a new study
The study comes from American Specialty Health Plans Inc. of San Diego. The
company provides employers with health insurance coverage for complementary
medicine, including chiropractic care and acupuncture.
The company compared four years of back pain claims from two groups: 700,000
health plan members with chiropractic care coverage and 1 million members with
the same health plan without chiropractic care coverage. It's the largest study
yet of how chiropractic care affects the cost of health care, notes study
co-leader Douglas Metz, DC, chief health services officer at American Specialty
"No matter how we perform the analysis -- whether we look at total costs
to the health plan, at lower back pain care, at musculoskeletal care -- in each
data set, the population covered for chiropractic had a lower overall cost to
the health plan than the population without access to chiropractic
benefits," Metz tells WebMD. "We believe this study is the first to
show that chiropractic [care] can be a cost-effective treatment option for back
Costs Down, Patient Satisfaction Up With Chiropractic Care
Compared with doctor-only health plans, the study found that:
- Chiropractic care cut the cost of treating back pain by 28%.
- Chiropractic care reduced hospitalizations among back pain patients by
- Chiropractic care reduced back surgeries by 32%.
- Chiropractic care reduced the cost of medical imaging, such as X-rays or
MRIs, by 37%.
The report appears in the Oct. 11 issue of Archives of Internal
Although the researchers did not look at patient satisfaction in this study,
Metz says company studies show that 95% of chiropractic care patients are
satisfied with the care they receive.
Patients often say they are satisfied with the chiropractic care they
receive, says Scott Boden, MD, director of the Emory Orthopaedic and Spine
Center in Atlanta.
"Chiropractic patients tend to be satisfied because of the hands-on
attention they get," Boden tells WebMD. "But there are different
schools of chiropractic and different kinds of chiropractors. There are some
that make accurate medial diagnoses and give appropriate treatments, and there
are those that treat less well-documented disorders with treatments that may
not be of acceptable quality. There is a wide range of variation."
Doctors, too, vary in the quality of care they offer back pain patients,
Boden says. Patients without chiropractic care coverage may first see general
practitioners who may run up health care costs by prematurely sending patients
off to get expensive tests and treatments.
"A disease like back pain can have a lot of variability in the ways
medical professionals approach patient care," Boden says. "The best
thing is to have an organized, integrated approach that uses state-of-the-art
and cost-effective care. Many -- if not most -- primary care providers have
little training in how to manage musculoskeletal disorders. That leads to some
of the costs. If you were to match a chiropractic network against trained
physicians instead of general medical practitioners, you might get different