In the midst of the prescription drug abuse and overuse our country is experiencing at this time, more Americans are turning to alternative health care for their aches and pains.
According to a new Gallup report that explored the public perceptions of Americans about chiropractic care, 57% of U.S. adults are likely to visit a chiropractor if they experience neck or back pain. This first-ever nationally representative study, commissioned by the Palmer College of Chiropractic, found that an estimated 33.6 million U.S. adults (14 percent) used chiropractic care within the last 12 months, 12% saw a chiropractor in the last five years, and 25% used chiropractic services more than five years ago.
The report offers a significantly higher utilization percentage of chiropractic care than suggested by the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, which positioned the percentage at approximately 8 percent (20.6 million) annually for the past 10 years. The same happens with the number of U.S. adults who have seen a chiropractor at least once in their lives: the Gallup-Palmer study found that approximately half of U.S. adults (51 percent or 123 million)had undergone chiropractic care, while previous NHIS reports suggest that only about 1 in 4 U.S. adults has ever visited a chiropractic office.
The study revealed that the majority of Americans believe chiropractic physicians are effective at treating neck and back pain, and that more than a quarter of them would choose chiropractic care first for their neck and back pain. According to the report, “Americans who have exposure to chiropractors are more likely to have an opinion of them, and in general those opinions are positive.” The majority of U.S. adults feel that most chiropractors are trustworthy and have their patient’s best interest in mind.
Among the other key findings:
- While most patients visit a chiropractor’s office when they are in pain, 31 percent of adults who have used chiropractic care within the past five years say they prefer regular visits, regardless of whether they have an affliction.
- Adults younger than 50 are likelier to say that a chiropractor would be their first choice for treating neck or back pain.
- Recent chiropractic users show a strong commitment to receiving chiropractic care, averaging 11 visits to a chiropractor in the last 12 months.
Barriers to Chiropractic Care
Lack of awareness about chiropractic care and its costs is keeping many Americans from considering chiropractic services. 51 percent of U.S. adults who said they never visited a chiropractic office were uncertain regarding the cost, expected number of visits, the education required to become a chiropractor, and trustworthiness of chiropractors.
For many, the greatest barriers to getting chiropractic care were a lack of knowledge about health insurance coverage for chiropractic care and sensitivity towards costs. Nearly half of U.S. adults don’t know whether their health insurance covers chiropractic care. About a third say their insurance plan covers chiropractic care, and 13% say their insurance does not.
Aside from uncertainty regarding insurance coverage, perceptions about the cost of chiropractic may also be a factor preventing some individuals from seeking it. About 4 in 10 adults believe chiropractic care is too expensive and think it requires too many visits. About the same percentage of respondents are unsure whether either of these statements is true.
Chiropractic Care, Still Plagued by Misconceptions
After studying the report, Dr. Dennis Marchiori, chancellor of Palmer College of Chiropractic, noted that most of the considerations that keep Americans from seeking chiropractic care are based on misperceptions or lack of awareness.
To demonstrate that chiropractic care is not dangerous, as deemed by 24 percent of study respondents, but is, in fact, safer than traditional medical care, Marchiori pointed out that chiropractors pay $1,200 to $1,500 a year in malpractice insurance, compared to the substantially higher amounts paid by general physicians. Chiropractic care for chronic neck or back pain, for instance, is safer and significantly less risky than conservative approaches, namely prescription medication and surgery.
Addressing the other big concern of Americans regarding cost of chiropractic care, Marchiori pointed out that most health insurance companies today cover the cost of chiropractic care, a fact many patients don’t realize. According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), chiropractic care is included in most major medical plans, workers’ compensation, Medicare, Blue Cross Blue Shield plans for federal employees, and some Medicaid plans, among others. Chiropractic is also available to active-duty members of the armed forces at over 60 military bases and to veterans at 36 major veteran medical facilities.
The study concludes that chiropractic care can be made available to more potential users by making the costs more transparent (including details regarding insurance coverage and the number of visits required) and raising awareness about the rigorous training undergone by chiropractors (a minimum of seven years of higher education, including clinical patient management). Such efforts may result in more Americans seeking chiropractors’ help not only for pain relief, but also for guidance on healthy living and nutrition, increased flexibility, and injury prevention.
If you’re interested in knowing what chiropractic care can do for you, contact your local chiropractor’s office. An experienced chiropractor can explain the uses and cost of chiropractic services and offer guidance regarding the best course of treatment for your particular condition.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.