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Chiropractic Care More Cost-Effective for Back Pain



When you have back pain, who do you see? You would probably go to a physician who will prescribe you medication and send you home.

For people suffering from chronic back pain though, this is not enough, which is why they are probably referred to an orthopedist, a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of problems in the musculoskeletal system.

But wait, you may ask, I thought it’s the chiropractor who’s an expert in those kinds of problems?

Chiropractors are effective in treating chronic back pain, yes, but there are instances when the care of medical doctors is needed. There are conditions that should be seen and treated by an orthopedist rather than a chiropractor, including those showing the following symptoms:

  • numbness in and around the genital areas
  • lack of bowel or bladder control
  • pain accompanied by fever or chills
  • pain severe enough to wake the person up at night
  • back pain with accompanying leg pain
  • tingling or numbness in the legs, and
  • the weakness of the leg muscles.

All these symptoms signal deeper and more serious problems that should immediately be given medical care. These are not symptoms that chiropractors can address because there could be an underlying medical disorder.

If the above symptoms are not seen in a patient with chronic back pain, however, the pain could be just due to spinal misalignment and muscle sprain and strain; in this case, chiropractic care is highly effective.

A recent study, for example, has shown that seeing a chiropractor for chronic lower back pain is more cost-effective than regularly seeing an orthopedist. According to the study published in the

Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, both treatment types could cost about the same, but patients undergoing chiropractic care show better outcomes than those who only see the medical doctor.

The study involved 2,780 patients who either saw a chiropractor or a medical doctor for their lower back pain. It was left to the patient to choose which medical practitioner to consult. Measurements were taken at 3 months and 1 year after their first visit. Outcomes were then measured through several variables, including changes in the level of pain, feelings of satisfaction regarding the care received, and disability score.

Patients who went to see the medical doctor were prescribed medication for their pain, given an exercise program to follow, given counseling regarding self-care strategies, and in 25 percent of the cases, were given a referral to physical therapy.

Meanwhile, patients who chose to consult a chiropractor had their spine manually adjusted, underwent physical therapy modalities, followed an exercise program, and had counseling for better self-care.

Results showed that the total cost of chiropractic care was 16% lower than medical care. However, the study didn’t take into consideration any medications purchased OTC or hospital visits associated with the cases.