Spine Pain: MD vs DC

Spine pain in the United States has gotten out of control. Frankly, this fire has been roaring for decades. Though significant improvements in healthcare, scientific breakthroughs, and more modalities are at our disposal now than ever, this problem is not going away anytime soon. Often, I am asked what the most common causes of spine pain are or what are ways to prevent it from happening in the first place. 

There are no clear-cut answers to these common questions. Unfortunately, in healthcare, there is a lot of gray area. While we don’t know the underlying cause of spine pain or how to prevent it, we can track the statistics of what happens to a patient once spine pain starts. 

A recent article featured in Dynamic Chiropractic featured a systematic review comparing the downstream cost of spine pain between traditional medical management (allopathic approach) and chiropractic care (vitalistic approach). 

The authors of this systematic review initially found 2,256 citations from a medical database search. Within that subset of data, 44 studies posed a similar question. 

What are the downstream costs when a patient with spine pain goes to a Medical Doctor? 

What are the downstream costs when a patient with a spine goes to a Doctor of Chiropractic? 

Here are the results:

  • Diagnostic Imaging
    • Doctors of Chiropractic ordered less advanced imaging (MRIs) than their medical counterparts
  • Opioids
    • Chiropractic patients required fewer opioid prescriptions.
  • Surgery
    • Chiropractic patients underwent fewer surgeries. 
  • Hospitalizations
    • Chiropractic patients required fewer hospitalizations. 
  • Injections
    • Chiropractic patients had fewer injections.
  • Referrals
    • Chiropractic patients need fewer referrals to specialists. 
  • Emergency Room Visits
    • Chiropractic patients went to the ER less frequently for pain. 

The authors of this systematic review concluded, “Patients with spine-related musculoskeletal pain who consulted a Chiropractic Physician as their initial provider incurred substantially decreased downstream healthcare services and associated costs, resulting in lower overall healthcare costs compared with medical management. 

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