Patients Who See Chiropractor First Much Less Likely to Have Spinal Surgery

A study published in the medical journal Spine on December 12, 2012, showed that patients who went to a chiropractor first with a back injury were less like to have surgery then those who went to an orthopedic surgeon. Articles on the study also appeared in the January 22, 2013, issue of the Monthly Prescribing Reference, as well as in a Business Wire release on Jan 08, 2013, by the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (F4CP).

The study, titled “Early Predictors of Lumbar Spine Surgery after Occupational Back Injury: Results from a Prospective Study of Workers in Washington State,” reviewed the records of patients in Washington state who had returned to work after a work-related back injury. Researchers looked at the claims of 1,885 workers for up to three years after the initial claim to see how many resulted in spinal surgery. The results showed that 174 (9.2%) of the people returning to work after a back injury had lumbar spine surgery within 3 years. Using this, the researchers wanted to see what factors affected the rate of these surgeries.

In a January 8, 2013, release by the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, spokesperson and chiropractor Dr. Gerard Clum discussed the study results by saying, “In total, 42.7 percent of workers who initially visited a surgeon underwent surgery, in contrast to only 1.5 percent of those who first consulted a chiropractor.” He noted that the study was conducted by a collaboration of prestigious institutions including Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, University of Washington School of Public Health, University of Washington School of Medicine, Ohio State University College of Public Health, and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

The researchers also noted the significant difference between patients who first went to the chiropractor by stating in their conclusion, “There was a very strong association between surgery and first provider seen for the injury, even after adjustment for other important variables.”

“Back injuries are the most prevalent occupational injury in the U.S., and care is commonly associated with one of the most costly treatments – spine surgery. Chiropractic is clearly the most appropriate first treatment option for patients with back pain, and this study confirms the value,” reports Dr. Clum. “As more data continues to surface touting the benefits of chiropractic care — lower costs, less risks and higher satisfaction rates — I expect that patients and practitioners will move toward considering chiropractic first, medicine second, and surgery last.”

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