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Why Chiropractic Treatment Safer than Primary Care for Seniors

Old age can come with plenty of aches and pains, especially in the back and neck. Long periods of sitting or lying in one position can contribute to those pains. Many older people report a constant low level of musculoskeletal pain that just won’t go away, as a lifetime’s worth of wear and tear on the joints makes it painful to do everyday tasks like walking, gardening or sitting to watch television. For older people who have lost their mobility altogether, aches and pains are even more frequent and cause even more chronic pain.

Most older patients see a primary care physician when they have neuromusculoskeletal pain, but a new study suggests that may not be the best approach. Instead, senior citizens with neuromusculoskeletal complaints should strongly consider seeing a chiropractor. (Neuromusculoskeletal pain is defined as pain caused by the interactions of the nerves, muscles and skeleton - exactly what chiropractic doctors are trained to treat.)

A large-cohort study, published in Spine, has found that for older patients with a neuromusculoskeletal complaint, evaluation by a physician is significantly more likely to cause an injury, than an office visit for a chiropractic spinal manipulation.

James M. Whedon, DC, from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and his team, analyzed Medicare administrative data for Medicare B patients aged 66 to 99 years with neuromusculoskeletal complaint. The study assessed the rate of injury within seven days for those treated by a primary care physician compared to those treated with chiropractic spinal manipulation. The researchers found that the adjusted risk of injury was almost four times lower in the chiropractic group versus the primary care group. The probability of injury for patients who had an office visit for chiropractic spinal manipulation was 40 in 100,000, compared to 153 per 100,000 when neuromusculoskeletal complaints are treated by a primary care physician.

"Among Medicare beneficiaries aged 66 to 99 years with an office visit for a neuromusculoskeletal problem, risk of injury to the head, neck, or trunk within seven days was 76 percent lower among subjects with a chiropractic office visit, than among those who saw a primary care physician," the authors write.

Although the overall risk of injury was still very low for both cohorts, the difference may be enough for you to consider chiropractic care the next time your aging mother (or you, if you’re a senior!) complains of pain in their nerves, muscles or spine.


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