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Chiropractic Is Physically Beneficial and Cost-Effective

Updated on January 15, 2015
Back pain is one of the most common forms of chronic pain afflicting Americans today.
Back pain is one of the most common forms of chronic pain afflicting Americans today.

According to the American Chronic Pain Association, chronic pain is the leading cause of adult disability in the United States, afflicting at least 16 percent of the adult population. In addition to the physical and emotional cost of individuals having to deal with constant discomfort and the inability to participate in normal daily activities, there is a steep economic cost as well.

The type of chronic pain afflicting adults varies among age groups. As an example, individuals in their 20s and 30s are more apt to experience debilitating headaches, whereas back pain tends to first manifest in one’s 30s and peaks in middle age. As we get to retirement age and beyond, arthritis and other painful conditions like shingles become more commonplace and can result in ongoing bouts of pain. Regardless of the location or cause, chronic pain can result in costs that can significantly impact people’s lives.

In 2003, the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated the cost of pain to be $61.2 billion per year. However, that figure was just money in lost productivity that U.S. businesses experienced because of employees unable to work because of pain. The physical and emotional toll of chronic discomfort is incalculable.

Elliot Krane explains the impact and intricacies of chronic pain.

Christopher L. Edwards, assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, asks, “How do you estimate the value of lost self-worth? How do you estimate the loss of family, friends, and a sense of accomplishment?”

It is more accurate to think of chronic pain as a cycle. When you develop back pain, you may consciously or unconsciously start to curb your activity. But once you become less active, that begets other problems. Edwards notes, “If you stop walking, the muscles, tendons, and nerves in your legs atrophy and deteriorate. If you become inactive as a result, that leads to all sorts of problems like heart disease and diabetes. People who have chronic pain are also exponentially more likely to have psychiatric illnesses like depression and anxiety disorders.”

Part of the emotional impact is the lack of sympathy or skepticism peers and co-workers often express at the claims of never-ending pain. Also, people in pain often don’t feel like socializing, so their friendships and familial relationships can suffer over time, leaving them feeling isolated, alone, and pessimistic.

Robert Bonakdar, the director of integrative pain management at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, says there’s much less sympathy and understanding for these elusive syndromes. “I think people in pain sometimes get unfairly dismissed by family and co-workers, especially when they don’t have an outward sign of suffering, like a cast or a bandage.”

Chiropractic treatments may offer relief to chronic back pain.
Chiropractic treatments may offer relief to chronic back pain.

Chiropractic treatments and other alternative therapies may offer some relief, notes Bonakdar. “The statistics are staggering. One survey of people with low back pain showed that 68 percent rated acupuncture and massage as ‘very helpful.’ Only 27 percent said that about seeing their doctor.”

Another added benefit is the financial value, with chiropractic office visits also routinely costing less than an office visit to a doctor — a good reason for insurance companies to offer more chiropractic coverage.

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