Chiropractic Care Out Performs Spinal Injections

St George Chiropractor

Many patients come to my office for evaluation and management of lower back pain.  There are several potential causes of the pain including, sciatica, disc herniation, failed back surgery syndrome, stenosis, and nerve root entrapment.  I have seen great success in helping people get out of pain and return to full activity.  I try to discuss with every patient, their options for treatments, including non-chiropractic care.  One subject I bring up is Nerve Root Injections or epidural injections for spinal pain.  I speak honestly and favorably about these injections, and I usually recommend specific offices here in St George if a patient asks for a consultation.

A new research study shows that chiropractic care was better at relieving back pain than the epidural injections.  I was excited to read these results.  I had always thought epidurals were at least as effective (but not better) than chiropractic care.  The argument that always tipped the scale for me and my patients was the cost of the procedures.  Chiropractic care is so much cheaper than an epidural injections.  The epidurals can range from $550 to $800 per procedure and it is not uncommon to need 2 or 3 injections.  When looking at the possibility of $1500 to $2400 in injections, many patients select the chiropractic route.  I average about 8 treatments for sciatica.  The cost of chiropractic care can vary from $40 to $70 per visit.   That translates to an estimate of $350 to $550— a full 1/3 the cost of the epidurals.

When one considers the risks involved with each procedure, chiropractic care is far safer making it a clear choice.

Epidural injections

A needle delivers pain medication and sometimes steroids right to the region of the spinal cord.

The clinical rationale for the epidural injections is pretty sound, and I generally support the procedure.  Physicians will use a needle to puncture the lower back and deliver medication (pain meds and steroids) right to the spinal area involved.  It is very close to the spinal cord.  This can temporarily reduce inflammation.  The reduction in pain allows the patient to be more active and its this activity and movement of the joints which help to heal the body faster.  The needle is guided by a special type of x-ray machine.

Some of the risks of epidurals include atrophy or weakening of the support ligaments as well as blood sugar problems.  People with diabetes tend to have some swings in their blood sugar levels afterwards.

While a number of studies have established the efficacy of chiropractic for low-back pain, fewer have tested its comparative effectiveness with other treatments for lumbar disc herniation.

The results of this study demonstrated the following data as reported by the patients and doctors conducting the study:

Chiropractic – – Epidurals
Strong Improvement: 76.5% 62.7%
Significant Pain Reduction Reported: 69% 53%
Later surgery required: 0% 6%
Cost of procedure: $558 $729*

*When considering the cost and effectiveness of the epidural injections.  I need to be fair and report that the patients only received one epidural injection and perhaps a second or third shot may have helped and improved their satisfaction rates.  But then we would need to double or triple the cost as well.

I was not surprised to see the surgery rate at 6%.  I have long believed that about 5% of disc herniations progress to surgery.  Injections are far safer than surgery.

When considering a treatment plan for back injuries, a person might consider the results of this study.  Chiropractic was safer, less expensive and had better results.  If chiropractic is not effective, then turn to the more expensive options, like epidural injections.  The last option should be surgery.

My treatment for lower back pain is safe, effective and affordable.  Now we have some research to prove it.

When you are suffering from lower back pain, come in to see us and let’s see what we can do to help.  If I can’t help you, I will provide a list of medical providers who might work for your specific condition.

Dr. Andrew White


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