Objective: The aim of this study was to measure the effects of a managed chiropractic benefit on the rates of specific diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for the treatment of back pain and neck pain.
Design: This study is a retrospective analysis of claims data from a managed-care health plan over a 4-year period. The use rates of advanced imaging, surgery, inpatient care, and plain-film radiographs were compared between employer groups with and without a chiropractic benefit.
Results: For patients with low back pain, the use rates of all 4 studied procedures were lower in the group with chiropractic coverage. On a per-episode basis, the rates in the group with coverage were reduced by the following: surgery (-32.1%); computed tomography (CT)/magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (-37.2%); plain-film radiography (-23.1%); and inpatient care (-40.1%). On a per-patient basis, the rates were reduced by the following: surgery (-13.7%); CT/MRI (-20.3%); plain-film radiography (-2.2%); and inpatient care (-24.8%). For patients with neck pain, the use rates were reduced per episode in the group with chiropractic coverage as follows: surgery (-49.4%); CT/MRI (-45.6%); plain-film radiography (-36.0%); and inpatient care (-49.5%). Per patient, the rates were surgery (-31.1%); CT/MRI (-25.7%); plain-film radiography (-12.5%); and inpatient care (31.1%). All group differences were statistically significant.
Conclusion: For the treatment of low back and neck pain, the inclusion of a chiropractic benefit resulted in a reduction in the rates of surgery, advanced imaging, inpatient care, and plain-film radiographs. This effect was greater on a per-episode basis than on a per-patient basis.