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Prevention: A Low-Cost Health Care Alternative

With the cost of health care soaring, both government and private health insurers are looking for ways to reduce expenditures. Epidemiological studies have shown that the single most expensive health care problem in the adult population today is low back pain. We are told that 85% of the population will experience some form of low back pain during their lifetime and that most of the time it will be disabling.


With those statistics in mind, the British Medical Research Council undertook a ten year study to compare traditional medical and chiropractic approaches to the treatment of lower back pain. The results of the study published in The British Medical Journal in June, 1990 indicated that not only were chiropractic treatments more effective overall, but that they were especially effective for patients suffering chronic and severe pain. It was estimated that by having patients with back pain treated by chiropractors the government would save approximately ten million pounds (approximately 22 million dollars Canadian) per year. A similar report was released in 1993 by Pran Manga showing that the Canadian government could save hundreds of millions of dollars annually by utilizing chiropractic for low back and other musculoskeletal problems. This was confirmed by a second study released in 1998.

All of this should be good news to health insurers, and for people who are currently suffering from low back pain, but what about those who have no desire to become a statistic? Real cost effectiveness comes from preventing the occurrence of such episodes. With the exception of those resulting from injury or accident, most spinal problems are preventable with regular spinal check ups. Pain is rarely the first indication of a problem.

Stiffness, fatigue, poor posture and being unable to get comfortable in any position often indicate spinal misalignment or reduced mobility of spinal joints. Reduced spinal mobility results in undue wear and tear on the spinal joints and promotes disc degeneration. Muscles attached to the spine become subject to greater strain and can be more easily injured. Irritation to the spinal nerves as they exit the spinal column may occur causing radiating pain and abnormal sensation (tingling or "pins and needles") as well as muscle weakness and disability.

Chiropractic treatments are directed at improving spinal mobility and balance in order to correct a problem once it has occurred whether or not it has produced symptoms. Visiting your chiropractor periodically for a spinal check up will reduce your odds of developing serious back problems and will reduce the long term cost to you and the health insurance plan. 

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