Musculoskeletal Pain and Chiropractic Care

This study evaluated chiropractic treatment and its cost effectiveness in caring for manual labor workers who complained of musculoskeletal problems. Of the 34 patients involved in the study, 13 complained of neck/arm pain and 19 of back/leg pain. 57% of the patients complained of symptoms lasting over 3 months. The subjects averaged 3.23 chiropractic treatments a month if they suffered from neck/arm symptoms, and 5.32 treatments a month if they reported back/leg symptoms. The course of treatment lasted six months. The researchers assessed the patient’s pain, functional outcomes, quality of life, perceived improvement, and employee satisfaction over 6 months. As well, they monitored the cost to the employer prior, during, and after the study period.

Throughout the study and its evaluations, back/leg patients displayed larger treatment benefits.

The Functional Outcome category, which is the patients’ ability to perform normal daily tasks, included the areas of mobility, body care, ambulation, house management, and work. Chiropractic modestly improved the subjects’ lives in body care, house management, and ambulation. The category Quality of Life, on the other hand, included social functioning, emotional disposition, general health, vitality, and body pain. The patient’s level of body pain, vitality, and emotional well being also improved with the treatments.

Patient satisfaction reports were very high. In both groups, those who did not feel “cured” at one month definitely did by six months. 84% of the back/leg patients found the treatment beneficial, and 77% of the neck/arm patients were pleased with their treatment outcomes.

In appraising the overall costs of treatments and sickness, the researchers reported that the employer’s overall costs fell by 30% in the first year of the arrangement and by a further 20% the following year. The extensive treatment costs, however, absorbed 40% and 82% of these savings.

Jay TC, Jones SL, Coe N, Breen AC. A chiropractic service arrangement for musculoskeletal complaints in industry: a pilot study. Occupational Medicine 1998;48:389-395.