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The italicized below is from the ACAtoday.org website….

A new study finds that care for low-back pain initiated with a doctor of chiropractic saves 40 percent on health care costs when compared with care initiated through a medical doctor. The study, featuring data from 85,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield beneficiaries, concludes that insurance companies that restrict access to chiropractic care for low-back pain treatment may inadvertently pay more for care than they would if they removed such restrictions.

"As doctors of chiropractic, we know firsthand that our care often helps patients avoid or reduce more costly interventions such as drugs and surgery. This study supports what we see in our practices every day," said ACA President Rick McMichael, DC. "It also demonstrates the value of chiropractic care at a critical time, when our nation is attempting to reform its health care system and contain runaway costs."

Dr. Lau's take:  A good percentage of time a patient with lower back pain will respond with conservative chiropractic care to alleviate pain and restore normal function to the lower back.  With that said, there are cases so severe where patients are having significant loss of ability to stand/sit/ambulate, etc. where it is prudent to make immediate referrals for quality of life purposes for the patient that may include pain med's and further testing. 

When a patient is initiated in a chiropractors office, the doctor of chiropractic will manage the back pain with exam findings and red flags that may alert him/her for need for an immediate referral.  After a short treatment plan in a chiropractic office is either shown effective or ineffective, an appropriate next level of care or referral can be recommended at that time.

My guess on why costs were higher (in addition to drugs and surgery mentioned by the ACA website above) when started in a medical office may also be due to the potentially earlier and more frequent use of testing such as MRI's/Scans/Nerve Study's - great tests that tell the doctor a lot of specific information, but also come with a higher pricetag. 

The bottom line here is that there will always be cases that require surgery and more aggressive medical management; however, the chiropractic doctor may provide a good filter to help keep costs down by identifying cases that definitely need an immediate MRI and cases where it is efficacious to initiate a conservative and safe chiropractic treatment plan.

- Dr. Michael Lau, D.C. 

Natural Health & Chiropractic Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma

www.alternativepractice.com

Natural Health & Chiropractic Center
6130 S Maplewood Ave # D
Tulsa OK 74136
United States

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