New Report on the Cost Effectiveness of Chiropractic Care

Oct 1, 2022 | Member Providers, Providers

by Ray Foxworth, D.C., FICC • 

President & Founder, ChiroHealthUSA • 

Outdated thinking about the physical and financial value of chiropractic care has been shaken up by a new report from the Workers Compensation Research Institute. Medical expenses are squeezing Americans harder than ever, and it’s a literal pain point for individuals and the businesses they serve. Healthcare plan costs for US employers increased by 3.7% in 2022 with a 6.5% increase projected for 2023. Meanwhile, employee premiums edged up by 0.6%.

This worsening financial barrier to good health means employees must either forego treatment and continue to work, take time off, or join their employer in paying often needlessly steep medical bills. One of the most common physical complaints impacting the workplace is lower back pain which affects almost half of American adults.

WebMD confirms the condition as one of the leading causes of missed workdays in the US, meaning it impacts individuals, companies, and the economy. Employers haven’t been making the chiropractor their first port of call in easing back pain, but newly published data may change this old-fashioned attitude.

Chiropractic Care Can Be Good News for Workers and Employers

A report titled “Chiropractic Care for Workers with Low Back Pain” was published by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) in May 2022. Based on over 2 million medical claims, it points to some much-needed relief from the stress of escalating healthcare costs.

A total of 28 states were studied and those in which employers had the choice of where to send employees for medical care had one thing in common: none had more than an average 11% of workers with lower back pain who received chiropractic attention.

The report believed this may be due to employers laboring under misinformed notions about the costs and outcomes associated with chiropractic clinics. Conversely, states where employees could choose the form of their medical care saw higher instances of chiropractic treatment.

The report’s data revealed that chiropractic – far from being the excessively expensive option for some employers and insurers believe – is linked to lower medical expenses and a more rapid return to work. In fact, this improved recovery schedule and reduced expense only occurred when treatment was provided exclusively through chiropractic care.

Here’s a comparison of what the study discovered about chiropractic costs vs. other forms of treatment:

  • Average Medical Cost Per Claim for Lower Back Pain Patients
    • Solely received chiropractic care for physical medicine, evaluation, and management: $1,366
    • Received no chiropractic treatment: $3,522
    • Cost savings for the first group: 61%
  • Indemnity Costs for Lower Back Pain Patients
    • Solely treated by a chiropractor: $492
    • Received no chiropractic treatment: $3,604
    • Cost savings for the first group: 86%
  • Patients Who Received Chiropractic Physical Medicine in Tandem with Evaluation and Management Via Other Clinical Providers
    • Average medical costs: $3,001 (15% lower than those without chiropractic care)
    • Average indemnity costs: $2,502 (31% lower than those without chiropractic care)

The study also found that reduced expenses were complemented by reduced need for medication. 10.3% of patients receiving no chiropractic care were prescribed opioids compared to just 1% of those under exclusive chiropractic supervision. Costs were further reduced for the latter group, 4.3% of which received MRIs compared to 18.9% of those who had no chiropractic attention.

Some Qualifying Considerations in the Study

The WCRI reminds readers that this data, while evidence-based, does not imply a definite relationship between these outcomes and chiropractic care. The individual behaviors of those participating in the study were not extensively documented and thus constitute an influential yet unrecorded factor that may affect results on a case-by-case basis.

Nonetheless, it’s a report with a very positive message. The complete study is available for free to WCRI members or by paying a $55 temporary membership fee. The WCRI report will hopefully go a long way toward positioning chiropractic among the primary forms of therapy for lower back pain whenever employers have discretion on healthcare.