People Have a Lot to Say About Chiropractic—Here Are the Facts
Whether they’ve tried chiropractic care or not, everyone seems to have an opinion on the practice. What’s the truth?
What is Chiropractic?
Let’s review a few facts about chiropractic from the American Chiropractic Association:
“Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, and the effects of these disorders on general health. These disorders include, but are not limited to: back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches. Doctors of chiropractic (DCs) practice a conservative approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment. DCs have broad diagnostic skills and are also trained to recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, as well as to provide nutritional, lifestyle and dietary counseling.
- There are about 77,000 chiropractors in the United States who are required to pass a series of four national board exams and be state licensed. Approximately another 3,000 chiropractors work in academic and management roles.
- There are approximately 10,000 chiropractic students in 18 nationally accredited, chiropractic doctoral graduate education programs across the United States with 2,500 chiropractors entering the workforce every year.
- It is estimated that chiropractors treat more than 35 million Americans (adults and children) annually.
- Chiropractors are educated in nationally accredited, four-year doctoral graduate school programs through a curriculum that includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical internship, with the average DC program equivalent in classroom hours to allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) medical schools.
- Chiropractors are designated as physician-level providers in the vast majority of states and federal Medicare program. The essential services provided by chiropractors are also available in federal health delivery systems, including those administered by Medicaid, the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Federal Workers’ Compensation, and all state workers’ compensation programs.”
More Background from the ACA
These facts also come from the American Chiropractic Association:
- The burden of chronic illnesses now accounts for 93% of Medicare spending.
- Stress and chronic pain account for more healthcare spending dollars than heart disease, diabetes and cancer combined!
- Musculoskeletal pain and disease weigh heavily on our healthcare system. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an estimated 100 million Americans are effected by chronic pain, with an estimated annual cost of at least $560-$635 billion!
- Low back pain (LBP) is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, and rates 6th in terms of overall disease burden to our society.
- According to the US Bone and Joint Initiative, musculoskeletal disease affects nearly three out of four people aged 65 and older.
Other Healthcare Providers Provide Inadequate Care
The majority of patients in pain will seek treatment from primary care providers (PCP’s) to get relief. Low back pain, in particular, is the most common neuromusculoskeletal symptom presented to PCP’s, and the fifth most common cause for all physician visits.
Yet current systems of care do not adequately train or support internists, family physicians, pediatricians, and other healthcare providers who provide primary care, in meeting the challenge of treating pain as a chronic illness.
PCP’s often receive little training in the assessment and treatment of complex chronic pain conditions. In one interview study, primary care providers perceived back pain as a low clinical priority and uninteresting in comparison to the major chronic illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes.
To date, deficiencies in the training of PCP’s in pain management, as well as the failure to adequately educate consumers about the benefits of conservative (non-drug, non-surgical) health care options, has resulted in unnecessary suffering, exacerbation of other medical conditions, enormous loss of human potential, and massive financial and personal costs.
Medicare patients should be empowered to play a greater role in managing their health and meaningfully engaging with their health care providers. The ACA believes that one way this can be accomplished is by educating all health consumers about early intervention from conservative health care providers, like DCs.
Chiropractic Offers Safer Conservative Treatment Methods
Treatment options that are effective, conservative, and inexpensive should be encouraged for health consumers, including Medicare beneficiaries. DC’s are trained in the most conservative treatment methods for neuromusculoskeletal conditions and urge patients and other health care providers to exhaust these options before resorting to riskier and more invasive treatments such as surgery and drugs. Chiropractic care provides an alternative to more dangerous, invasive treatments that are increasingly used and may have severe drawbacks.
Medicare spending on various invasive treatments for back pain increased substantially over the decade. According to an article published in 2009, a review of the literature found that over approximately a decade, epidural steroid injections increased by 629% and spinal fusions by 220%; however, these increases were not accompanied by improvements in patient outcomes or reductions in disability rates.
Furthermore, opiate use has increased by 429%, and recent studies have documented high utilization rates of opiate use among younger, disabled Medicare beneficiaries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 1 in 4 patients who receive prescription opioids long term for non-cancer pain in primary care settings struggles with addiction. Every day, more than 1,000 people are treated in the ER for misusing prescription opioids. More astoundingly, deaths involving opioids have quadrupled since 1999; in 2014 alone, more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving these drugs. That same year, another 2 million people abused or were dependent on opioids.
DC’s have a critical role in the care of acute and chronic episodes experienced by Medicare beneficiaries and there is a growing body of research that validates the effectiveness of chiropractic services. This is leading many respected health care organizations to recommend chiropractic and its drug-free approach to pain relief.
In 2015 the Joint Commission, the organization that accredits more than 20,000 health care systems in the U.S. (including every major hospital), recognized the value of non-drug approaches by adding chiropractic and acupuncture to its pain management standard. In March 2016 the CDC, in response to the opioid epidemic, released guidelines for prescribing opioids that also promote non-pharmacologic alternatives for the treatment of chronic pain. Most recently, in 2017 the American College of Physicians (ACP) published updated guidelines for the treatment of acute and chronic low back pain, and recommended spinal manipulation (chiropractic) as a possible option for non-invasive, non-drug therapy before resorting to drug therapies.
It is also important to note that the risk profile of chiropractic manipulative treatment (CMT) is extremely low, meaning it is very safe, calculated at between 5-10 serious complications per 10 million manipulations.
A 2010 study of patients with low back pain who initiated care with a DC resulted in 40% lower health care costs when compared with care initiated through a medical doctor. Similarly, a study found that patients using chiropractic physicians as their primary care providers had significant decreases in hospital admissions (43%), pharmaceutical costs (52%), and outpatient surgeries and procedures (43%). A study published in the British Medical Journal found that patients receiving spinal manipulation (chiropractic) and exercise had lower relative care costs and experienced more benefits than those treated with general medical care.
The future of YOUR health and the future of our healthcare system depends on the choices you make today. Before you opt into expensive, invasive, and risky procedures, try visiting a chiropractor. Algonquin Chiropractic Center has been the go-to provider for chiropractic in Algonquin, IL for nearly 20 years. Simply call (847) 854-2000 and set up a consultation today!