A visit to the chiropractor could be more cost-effective treatment for chronic neck pain

The NIH estimates that chronic pain affects more people than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined

It’s persistent, and can become a lifelong struggle. While it often manifests itself after an injury or illness, chronic pain can be random, without a clear cause. The subjective nature of pain can make it difficult and costly to find an effective treatment.

Current treatment options focus on managing pain & symptoms. That often includes prescription painkillers. But with the growing opioid epidemic, more people are considering alternative options.

A recent clinical trial from researchers at the Center for Spirituality & Healingexplored that trend, looking specifically at chronic neck pain in older adults.

The study analyzed costs and outcomes for three different treatment recommendations for chronic neck pain. The results were published in The Spine Journal.

“Given the rising concerns regarding current management strategies for spinal pain, more widespread use of cost-effective integrative therapies should be considered,” said Brent Leininger, D.C., M.S., lead author on the study and Assistant Professor in the Center’s Integrative Health and Wellbeing Research Program.

The study found that integrating spinal manipulation (seeing a chiropractor) into care regimens for chronic neck pain showed improved clinical outcomes and cost savings. They looked at treatment plans that did not include prescribed pain medication.

They compared three groups:

  • Home exercise and advice (HEA): four at-home visits and recommended self-care
  • Spinal manipulation therapy + HEA: HEA, in addition to a maximum of 20 sessions with a chiropractor
  • Supervised rehabilitative exercise + HEA: HEA, in addition to 20 one-on-one supervised sessions with an exercise therapist

The results found that chiropractic care in conjunction with home exercise & advice provided greater reduction in neck pain over one year’s time.

It cost less, too.

Spinal manipulation with HEA costs were 5 percent lower than HEA alone, and 47 percent lower than supervised rehabilitation with HEA.

Clinical outcomes were determined based on self-reported pain scale, and costs included the cost of time and missed work, in addition to healthcare costs.

“Our study showed that integrating manual treatments – like chiropractic care – with self-care approaches provides good value for the management of chronic neck pain in adults 65 and older,” Leininger said.

Leininger said additional research should be conducted, including larger studies comparing the value of integrative therapies relative to other commonly used treatments for neck pain, like surgery or medication.

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities