Your number one purpose for visiting your chiropractor is probably not to solve our nation’s health care crisis. Your purpose is most likely to reduce pain or discomfort, or if you are feeling well to enhance your feeling of well-being and help yourself stay well. But at the same time, you ARE making a small contribution toward changing our health care trends.
Our health care crisis is composed of skyrocketing costs (the U.S. spends more than twice as much per person on health care than the average of all other developed nations) combined with deteriorating health (the World Health Organization ranked the U.S. 40th among 191 nations in our health care system, just ahead of Cuba…and latest statistics show that two-thirds of Americans are overweight, one-third are obese, and rates of diabetes and other chronic diseases are steadily increasing).
A recent study published in the leading orthopedic journal Spine reported that, in the state of Washington, for people who had a work-related lower back injury, "42.7% of workers who first saw a surgeon eventually had surgery, in contrast to only 1.5% of those who saw a chiropractor."
These results caused the investigators to conclude that "there was a very strong association between surgery and first provider seen for the injury, even after adjustment for other important variables." Another recent study found that when folks with herniated discs causing back and leg pain and facing lower back surgery (“microdiskectormy”—average cost $25,000) had a series of chiropractic treatments first, 60% wound up getting better and never needed surgery (while none got worse) which the authors estimated could save at least $2.5 billion a year if everyone facing that surgery had a chance to try chiropractic first.
Still another recently published report stated that America’s health care system is spending six times more on prescription medications than we were in 1990. Researchers stated that “As many as 45% of Americans have at least one diagnosed chronic condition, and 60% of the most prescribed medications were for hypertension, high cholesterol levels and diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 11% of the US population and 40% of people older than age 60 take five medications or more." And one more study published a few years ago looking at 1.75 million Californians insured by Kaiser found that those with access to chiropractic care had lower total health expenditures for all doctors and conditions than those without access, likely due to huge savings from reduced surgeries, medications and expensive diagnostic procedures related to neck and back pain AND from lifestyle improvements in chiropractic patients.
Obviously, your chiropractic visit alone will not correct your high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar. But the health of your back and neck cannot be separated from your overall health, and perhaps the encouragement and information we seek to transmit to our patients may inspire some of our patients to move toward a healthier lifestyle which can improve and sometimes even correct those potentially dangerous and expensive conditions, reducing the need for medications and surgery.