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Individuals with musculoskeletal disorders who received chiropractic care or physical therapy had lower health care costs and were less likely to have surgery than employees who did not receive those services, according to a recent report.
The findings come from a one-year pilot program designed by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield to measure patient quality of care. Researchers concluded that significant clinical outcomes and health care cost reductions were attributable to the use of chiropractic and other physical medicine services. Overall, 89 percent of all individuals receiving physical medicine services reported improvement of at least 30 percent within 30 days.
The 2008 pilot — an ongoing quality improvement program for Iowa and South Dakota physical medicine providers — analyzed data on care provided by 238 chiropractors, physical therapists and occupational therapists to 5,500 Wellmark members with MSDs. Wellmark utilized Triad Healthcare to help administer the program and collaborated with the company to collect data and measure outcomes. Triad also analyzed the chiropractic and physical therapy utilization data for the pilot and has continued to administer the program in 2009.
Supporters of chiropractic treatment praised the findings, saying that the cost-effectiveness of the method has been documented in several studies.
Glenn Manceaux, president of the American Chiropractic Association, pointed to a study published in a 2005 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics that found chiropractic and medical care have comparable costs for treating chronic low-back pain, with chiropractic care producing significantly better outcomes. In addition, a study published in a 2003 edition of Spine medical journal found that manual manipulation provides better short-term relief of chronic spinal pain than a variety of medications, he said.
“Especially during the health care reform debate, it’s important that chiropractic and other conservative care methods are taken into serious consideration as a cost-effective alternative to the utilization of expensive surgery and hospital-based care,” he said.