Effectiveness Of Chiropractic
Rand Study On Low-Back Pain
A four-phase study conducted in the early 1990s by RAND, one of America’s most prestigious centers for research in public policy, science and technology, explored many indications of low-back pain.
In the RAND studies, an expert panel of researchers, including medical doctors and doctors of chiropractic, found that:
- Chiropractors deliver a substantial amount of health care to the U.S. population.
- Spinal manipulation is of benefit to some patients with acute low-back pain.
The RAND reports marked the first time that representatives of the medical community went on record stating that spinal manipulation is an appropriate treatment for certain low-back pain conditions
Research Demonstrates Effectiveness And Popularity Of Chiropractic Care
- A critical mass of recent surveys and studies document the fact that the public, and conventional health care providers and payers, have come to recognize that traditional medicine can’t answer all of consumers’ health care needs. In particular, more people are turning to chiropractic services.
- A study published in the July 1, 1998 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that chiropractic treatment is appropriate for low-back pain in a considerable number of cases. This study by the Rand Corporation found that 46 percent of a sample of low-back pain patients received appropriate care from doctors of chiropractic – an appropriateness rating similar to that of common medical procedures.
- Poll results released in January 1998 by Landmark Healthcare, Inc., showed that one in every five adults ages 55 to 64 has used chiropractic care.
- A December 1997 report from the Federal Agency for Health Policy and Research (AHCPR) notes that the chiropractic profession is now the third largest group of doctoral-level providers in the United States (after medical doctors and dentists).
- That same AHCPR report shows that fully 80 percent of American workers in conventional insurance plans, preferred providers organizations (PPOs), and point-of-service plans now have coverage that pays at least part of the cost of chiropractic care.
- As the recent AHCPR report states, “In the areas of training, practice and research, chiropractic has emerged from the periphery of the health care system and is playing an increasingly important role in discussions of health care policy.” And, notes a March 1998 article in Business and Health magazine, “Many companies say chiropractic coverage has lowered their medical and workers’ comp costs, while raising overall health and productivity. ‘It’s one of the best benefits possible from a quality, quantity and pricing perspective,’ says George McGregor, president of [a firm that is a third-party administrator].” The article also cites an Oregon study, which found that median work time lost for employees with back injuries who used chiropractic care was only 9 days as compared with 34.5 days for workers who used medical care.
- Quick relief of symptoms and sustained effectiveness have long attracted consumers to chiropractic care. In fact, in just one year more than 20 million adults used chiropractic services. The 1994 AHCPR guidelines for low-back pain concluded that spinal manipulation, chiropractic’s primary treatment technique, is one of only three treatments whose effectiveness is substantiated by rigorous research. According to a 1992 RAND Corp. study, patients see a chiropractor primarily for low back pain and neck pain, though many seek chiropractic care for mid-back pain, extremity problems, headaches and other symptoms as well.
- Because back pain is so pervasive in our society, a recent study published in the British Medical Journal pointing out that back pain doesn’t go away that easily confirmed what chiropractors have always known. Only 25 percent of low back pain sufferers had fully recovered 12 months after their first visit to a general practitioner, the study said. This low number is in conflict with the commonly-held notion that low back pain episodes go away by themselves after a month. “This hardly comes as a surprise to low back pain sufferers who have been told by their medical doctors not to worry – the pain will go away on its own,” said Dr. Michael Pedigo, president of the American Chiropractic Association. “In many cases, further treatment is necessary.”
- Doctors of chiropractic have long understood the cyclic nature of low back pain, and perhaps this is one of the reasons they consistently rate higher than MDs in patient satisfaction in this area. In a recent Gallup poll, 90 percent of all people who visited a chiropractor agreed that their care was effective.
- Successful outcomes in both effectiveness and patient satisfaction, have paved the way for chiropractors to enter the mainstream of health care services. Some have even begun to collaborate with medical doctors in integrated health care practices. As reported in the May/June 1998 issue of Health magazine, the prestigious Texas Back Institute (TBI) at one time included only surgeons and other M.D.s. Then, about ten years ago, when TBI’s medical doctors discovered chiropractic’s success with lower back pain, they hired their first chiropractor. Now, according to one administrator quoted in the article, about 50 percent of the Institute’s patients see a chiropractor first when beginning their treatment. Also, the Washington Post recently reported on the success of the 5-year-old company, American Whole Health, whose clinics incorporate a consumer-driven mix of traditional medical and alternative health care including chiropractic.
- Due to years of criticism — and even an illegal boycott by the American Medical Association — chiropractic training was sometimes called into question. However, the fact remains, chiropractors must complete a minimum of 6 and, on average, 7 years of college and post-graduate study to earn their degrees. Their education includes at least 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical experience, and as much — and sometimes more than — course work in anatomy and physiology as most medical doctors. After they receive their degrees from one of the nation’s 17 accredited chiropractic colleges, they have to pass rigorous exams and be licensed by the state before they can open a practice. The practice of chiropractic is licensed in all 50 states, and in 1994 there were approximately 50,000 chiropractors licensed in the United States. This number is expected to double by the year 2010, according to the 1997 AHCPR report.
- “These recent surveys and reports finally vindicate the chiropractic profession after years of enduring doubt, questions and criticism about our training and practices,” said Dr. Pedigo. “What the health care and medical communities are just beginning to accept is what our patients have known all along — that our treatment is safe, effective and highly successful at improving their quality of life.
Source: The American Chiropractic Association
British Medical Journal Report
A study conducted by T.W. Meade, a medical doctor, and reported in the June 2, 1990, British Medical Journal concluded after two years of patient monitoring, “for patients with low-back pain in whom manipulation is not contraindicated, chiropractic almost certainly confers worthwhile, long-term benefit in comparison with hospital outpatient management.”
Source: Florida Chiropractic Association
Landmark Legal Decision For Chiropractic
Further validation of chiropractic care evolved from an antitrust suit which was filed by four members of the chiropractic profession against the American Medical Association (AMA) and a number of other health care organizations in the U.S. (Wilk et al v. AMA et al, 1990). Following 11 years of litigation, a federal appellate court judge upheld a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Getzendanner that the AMA had engaged in a “lengthy, systematic, successful and unlawful boycott” designed to restrict cooperation between MDs and chiropractors in order to eliminate the profession of chiropractic as a competitor in the U.S. health care system.
Judge Getzendanner rejected the AMA’s patient care defense, and cited scientific studies which implied that “chiropractic care was twice as effective as medical care in relieving many painful conditions of the neck and back as well as related musculo-skeletal problems.” Since the court’s findings and conclusions were released, an increasing number of medical doctors, hospitals, and health care organizations in the U.S. have begun to include the services of chiropractors
Source: Florida Chiropractic Association
Patient Disability Comparison
A 1992 article in the Journal of Family Practice reported a study by D.C. Cherkin, Ph.D., which compared patients of family physicians and of chiropractors. The article stated “the number of days of disability for patients seen by family physicians was significantly higher (mean 39.7) than for patients managed by chiropractors (mean 10.8).” A related editorial in the same issue referred to risks of complications from lumbar manipulation as being “very low.”
Washington HMO Study
In 1989, a survey administered by Daniel C. Cherkin, Ph.D., and Frederick A. MacCornack, Ph.D., concluded that patients receiving care from health maintenance organizations (HMOs) within the state of Washington were three times as likely to report satisfaction with care from chiropractors as they were with care from other physicians. The patients were also more likely to believe that their chiropractor was concerned about them.
Utah Workers' Compensation Study
A workers’ compensation study conducted in Utah by Kelly B. Jarvis, D.C., Reed B. Phillips, D.C., Ph.D., and Elliot K. Morris, JD, MBA, compared the cost of chiropractic care to the costs of medical care for conditions with identical diagnostic codes. Results were reported in the August 1991 Journal of Occupational Medicine.
The study indicated that costs were significantly higher for medical claims than for chiropractic claims; in addition, the number of work days lost was nearly ten times higher for those who received medical care instead of chiropractic care
Florida Workers' Compensation Study
A 1988 study of 10,652 Florida workers’ compensation cases was conducted by Steve Wolk, Ph.D. and reported by the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research. It was concluded that “a claimant with a back-related injury, when initially treated by a chiropractor versus a medical doctor, is less likely to become temporarily disabled, or if disabled, remains disabled for a shorter period of time; and claimants treated by medical doctors were hospitalized at a much higher rate than claimants treated by chiropractors.”
New Zealand Commission Report
A particularly significant study of chiropractic was conducted between 1978-1980 by the New Zealand Commission of Inquiry. In its 377-page report to the House of Representatives, the Commission called its study “probably the most comprehensive and detailed independent examination of chiropractic ever undertaken in any country.”
The Commission entered the inquiry with “the general impression … shared by many in the community:” Conclusions of the Commission’s report, based on investigations in New Zealand, the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, stated:
"Spinal manual therapy in the hands of a registered chiropractor is safe."
Spinal manual therapy can be effective in relieving musculo-skeletal symptoms such as back pain, and other symptoms known to respond to such therapy, such as migraine.
Chiropractors are the only health practitioners who are necessarily equipped by their education and training to carry out spinal manual therapy.
In the public interest and in the interests of patients, there must be no impediment to full professional cooperation between chiropractors and medical practitioners.
A major study to assess the most appropriate use of available health care resources was lower back pain and discomfort reported in 1993. This was an outcomes study funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and conducted in hopes of sharing information about ways to reduce the incidence of work-related injuries and to address cost-effective ways to rehabilitate disabled and injured workers. The study was conducted by three health economists led by University of Ottawa Professor Pran Manga, Ph.D. The 216-page report of the study is commonly called the Manga Report. The Manga Report overwhelmingly supported the efficacy, safety, scientific validity, and cost-effectiveness of chiropractic for low-back pain. Additionally, it found that higher patient satisfaction levels were associated with chiropractic care than with medical treatment alternatives.
“Evidence from Canada and other countries suggests potential savings of hundreds of millions annually.”
– The Manga Report-
The literature clearly and consistently shows that the major savings from chiropractic management come from fewer and lower costs of auxiliary services, fewer hospitalizations, and a highly significant reduction in chronic problems, as well as in levels and duration of disability.
Chiropractic vs. Medicine For Acute
Low Back Pain: No Contest
Acute low back pain patients demonstrate significantly greater improvement with chiropractic than “usual care.”
With the publication of the Chiropractic Hospital-based Interventions Research Outcomes (CHIRO) Study1 in The Spine Journal, one of the most frequently cited spine research journals in the world,2 the health care community at large may finally appreciate what the chiropractic profession has known for more than a century: Patients with acute mechanical low back pain enjoy significant improvement with chiropractic care, but little to no improvement with the usual care they receive from a family physician.
Published in the December 2010 edition of The Spine Journal, the study found that after 16 weeks of care, patients referred to medical doctors saw almost no improvement in their disability scores, were likely to still be taking pain drugs and saw no benefit with added physical therapy – and yet were unlikely to be referred to a doctor of chiropractic.
The study is “the first reported randomized controlled trial comparing full CPG [clinical practice guidelines]-based treatment, including spinal manipulative therapy administered by chiropractors, to family physician-directed UC [usual care] in the treatment of patients with AM-LBP (acute mechanical low back pain).” (Evidence-based clinical practice guidelines have been established for acute mechanical low back pain in many countries around the world, but sadly, most primary care medical doctors don’t follow these guidelines.) Researchers found that “treatment including CSMT [chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy] is associated with significantly greater improvement in condition-specific functioning” than usual care provided by a family physician.