Government Research Studies on Chiropractic

In recent years, numerous independent researchers and various government agencies  have conducted studies which focus  on the efficacy, appropriateness and cost-effectiveness of chiropractic treatment.   Several of these important studies are listed below.


    A 1994 study published by the U.S. Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  endorses spinal manipulation for acute low back pain in adults in its Clinical Practice Guideline # 14.  An independent multidisciplinary panel of private-sector clinicians and other experts convened and developed specific statements on appropriate health care of acute low back problems in adults.  One statement cited,  relief of discomfort (low back pain) can be accomplished most safely with spinal manipulation, and/or nonprescription medication.

    Acute Low Back Problems in Adults ~ AHCPR Clinical Practice Guidelines, No. 14

  • A major study to assess the most appropriate use of available health care resources was reported in 1993.  This was an outcomes study funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and conducted in hopes of sharing information about ways to reduce the incidence of work-related injuries and to address cost-effective ways to rehabilitate disabled and injured workers. The study was conducted by three health economists led by University of Ottawa Professor Pran Manga, Ph.D.  The report of the study is commonly called the Manga Report.  The Manga Report overwhelmingly supported the efficacy, safety, scientific validity, and cost-effectiveness of chiropractic for low-back pain.  Additionally, it found that higher patient satisfaction levels were associated with chiropractic care than with medical treatment alternatives.  “Evidence from Canada and other countries suggests potential savings of hundreds of millions annually,”  the Manga Report states. “The literature clearly and consistently shows that the major savings from chiropractic management come from fewer and lower costs of auxiliary services, fewer hospitalizations, and a highly significant reduction in chronic problems, as well as in levels and duration of disability.”

    Enhanced Chiropractic Coverage Under OHIP as a Means for Reducing Health Care Costs, Attaining Better Health Outcomes and Achieving Equitable Access to Health Services

  • A four-phase study conducted in the early 1990s by RAND, one of America’s most prestigious centers for research in public policy, science and technology, explored many indications of low-back pain.  In the RAND studies, an expert panel of researchers, including medical doctors and doctors of chiropractic, found that:

    • chiropractors deliver a substantial amount of health care to the U.S. population.

    • spinal manipulation is of benefit to some patients with acute low-back pain.

    The RAND reports marked the first time that representatives of the medical community went on record stating that spinal manipulation is an appropriate treatment for certain low-back pain conditions.

  • A particularly significant study of chiropractic was conducted between 1978-1980 by the New Zealand Commission of Inquiry.  In its 377-page report to the House of Representatives, the Commission called its study “probably the most comprehensive and detailed independent examination of chiropractic ever undertaken in any country.”  The Commission entered the inquiry with “the general impression ... shared by many in the community: that chiropractic was an unscientific cult, not to be compared with orthodox medical or paramedical services.”   By the end of the inquiry, the commission reported itself “irresistibly and with complete unanimity drawn to the conclusion that modern chiropractic is a soundly-based and valuable branch of health care in a specialized area...”  Conclusions of the Commission’s report,  based on investigations in New Zealand, the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, stated:

    • Spinal manual therapy in the hands of a registered chiropractor is safe.

    • Spinal manual therapy can be effective in relieving musculo-skeletal symptoms such as back pain, and other symptoms known to respond to such therapy, such as migraine.

    • Chiropractors are the only health practitioners who are necessarily equipped by their education and training to carry out spinal manual therapy.

    • In the public interest and in the interests of patients, there must be no impediment to full professional cooperation between chiropractors and medical practitioners.

  • In 2002, the Texas Chiropractic Association (TCA) commissioned an independent study to determine the use and effectiveness of chiropractic with regard to workers' compensation, the results of which were published in February. According to the report, Chiropractic Treatment of Workers' Compensation Claimants in the State of Texas, chiropractic care was associated with significantly lower costs and more rapid recovery in treating workers with low-back injuries. They found: Lower back and neck injuries accounted for 38 percent of all claims costs. Chiropractors treated about 30 percent of workers with lower back injuries, but were responsible for only 17.5 percent of the medical costs and 9.1 percent of the total costs. These findings were even more intertesting: The average claim for a worker with a low-back injury was $15,884. However, if a worker received at least 75 percent of his or her care from a chiropractor, the total cost per claimant decreased by nearly one-fourth to $12,202. If the chiropractor provided at least 90 percent of the care, the average cost declined by more than 50 percent, to $7,632.

  • A 1988 study of 10,652 Florida workers’ compensation cases was conducted by Steve Wolk, Ph.D. , and reported by the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research. It was concluded that “a claimant with a back-related injury, when initially treated by a chiropractor versus a medical doctor, is less likely to become temporarily disabled, or if disabled, remains disabled for a shorter period of time; and claimants treated by medical doctors were hospitalized at a much higher rate than claimants treated by chiropractors.” Some of the study results were:

    • 51.3 percent shorter temporary total disability duration with chiropractic care

    • lower treatment cost by 58.8 percent ($558 vs. $1,100 per case) in the chiropractic group, and

    • 20.3 percent hospitalization rate in the chiropractic care group vs. 52.2 percent rate in the medical care group

  • In 1989, a survey administered by Daniel C. Cherkin, Ph.D., and Frederick A. MacCornack, Ph.D., concluded that patients receiving care from health maintenance organizations (HMOs) within the state of Washington were three times as likely to report satisfaction with care from chiropractors as they were with care from other physicians. The patients were also more likely to believe that their chiropractor was concerned about them.

  • A workers’ compensation study conducted in Utah by Kelly B. Jarvis, D.C., Reed B. Phillips, D.C., Ph.D., and Elliot K. Morris, JD, MBA, compared the cost of chiropractic care to the costs of medical care for conditions with identical diagnostic codes.  Results were reported in the August 1991 Journal of Occupational MedicineThe study indicated that costs were significantly higher for medical claims than for chiropractic claims; in addition, the number of work days lost was nearly ten times higher for those who received medical care instead of chiropractic care.

    This Compensation Board study found the total treatment costs for back-related injuries cost an average of $775.30 per case when treated by a doctor of chiropractic. When injured workers received standard medical treatment as opposed to chiropractic treatment, the average cost per case was $1,665.43. They also found the mean compensation cost paid out by the Utah Worker's Compensation Board for patients treated by medical doctors was $668.39, while the mean compensation cost paid for patients treated by chiropractic doctors was only $68.38.

    Cost Per Case Comparison of Back Injury Claims of Chiropractic Versus Medical Management for Conditions With Identical Diagnostic Codes
    J Occup Med 1991 (Aug);   33 (8):   847–852

  • A 1992 article in the Journal of Family Practice reported a study by DC Cherkin, Ph.D., which compared patients of family physicians and of chiropractors.   The article stated “the number of days of disability for patients seen by family physicians was significantly higher (mean 39.7) than for patients managed by chiropractors (mean 10.8).” A related editorial in the same issue referred to risks of complications from lumbar manipulation as being “very low.”

  • A 1991 report on a workers’ compensation study conducted in Oregon by Joanne Nyiendo, Ph.D., concluded that the median time loss days (per case) for comparable injuries was 9.0 for patients receiving treatment by a doctor of chiropractic  and 11.5 for treatment by a medical doctor.

  • Miron Stano, PhD, a health care economist at Oakland University, conducted a study comparing the health-care costs for chiropractic and medical patients with neuromusculoskeletal conditions. The database he used came from the records of MEDSTAT Systems, Inc., a health benefits management consulting firm which processes insurance claims for many of the country's largest corporations. This June 1993 Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics study involved 395,641 patients, drawn from statistical information on more than two million beneficiaries. Results over a two-year period showed that patients who received chiropractic care incurred significantly lower health care costs than did patients treated solely by medical or osteopathic physicians.


    722.10 Lumbar Disc $  8,175 $  1,065
    724.40 Neuritis/Radiculitis $  2,154 $     531
    846.00 Sprain/Sacroiliac $     813 $     537
    847.00 Sprain/Strain Cervical $     968 $     586
    847.10 Sprain/Strain Thoracic $     487 $     474
    847.20 Sprain/Strain Lumbar $     969 $     523
    Total Cost of Selected Cases
    $ 13,556 $  3,716
    Average Cost Per Case
    $  2,259 $    619

    Also of interest, for those patients receiving both medical and chiropractic care, the Stano/MEDSTAT results revealed:

    • 31 percent lower hospital admissions rates;

    • 43 percent lower inpatient payments; and

    • 23 percent lower total health care costs.

  • Following a 1993 study, researchers J. David Cassidy, D.C., Haymo Thiel,  D.C., M.S., and W. Kirkaldy-Willis, M.D., of the Back Pain Clinic at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatchewan concluded that “the treatment of lumbar intervertebral disk herniation by side posture manipulation is both safe and effective.”

  • In 1985 the University of Saskatchewan conducted a study of 283 patients “who had not responded to previous conservative or operative treatment” and who were initially classified as totally disabled. The study revealed that “81% ... became symptom free or achieved a state of mild intermittent pain with no work restrictions” after daily spinal manipulations were administered.

  • A 1978 study conducted by J.S. Wight, D.C. , and reported in the ACA Journal of Chiropractic, indicated that 74.6% of patients with recurring headaches, including migraines, were either cured or experienced reduced headache symptomatology after receiving chiropractic manipulation.

  • 1991 GALLUP POLL
  • A 1991 demographic poll conducted by the Gallup Organization revealed that 90% of chiropractic patients felt their treatment was effective; more than 80% were satisfied with that treatment; and nearly 73% felt most of their expectations had been met during their chiropractic visits.

  • A study conducted by T.W. Meade, a medical doctor, and reported in the June 2, 1990, British Medical Journal concluded after two years of patient monitoring, “for patients with low-back pain in whom manipulation is not contraindicated, chiropractic almost certainly confers worthwhile, long-term benefit in comparison with hospital outpatient management.” More importantly, this article contradicts other articles which maintained that spinal adjusting (manipulation) was only effective for "acute" low back pain . This article found: The benefit is seen mainly in those with chronic or severe pain . It also suggested that “introducing chiropractic into NHS practice should be considered.”

  • A 1992 study conducted by L.G. Schifrin, Ph.D., provided an economic assessment of mandated health insurance coverage for chiropractic treatment within the Commonwealth of Virginia.  This economic analysis found chiropractic care to be a lower cost option for back-related ailments. The researchers concluded that if chiropractic care was insured to the extent of other medical specialties, it would likely emerge as a first option for many patients with certain medical conditions. They also believed this could result in a decrease in the overall treatment costs for these conditions. The study reported that:

    Mandated Health Insurance Coverage for Chiropractic Treatment: An Economic Assessment, with Implications for the Commonwealth of Virginia
    Leonard G. Schifrin . The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, and Medical College of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia - January 1992.

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  • A 1992 review of data from over 2,000,000 users of chiropractic care in the U.S., reported in the Journal of American Health Policy, stated that “chiropractic users tend to have substantially lower total health care costs,” and that “chiropractic care reduces the use of both physician and hospital care.”

  • In 1985 the University of Saskatchewan conducted a study of 283 patients “who had not responded to previous conservative or operative treatment” and who were initially classified as totally disabled. The study revealed that “81% ... became symptom free or achieved a state of mild intermittent pain with no work restrictions” after daily spinal manipulations were administered.

Further validation of chiropractic care evolved from an antitrust suit which was filed by four members of the chiropractic profession against the American Medical Association (AMA) and a number of other health care organizations in the U.S. (Wilk et al v. AMA et al, 1990).  Following 11 years of litigation, a federal appellate court judge upheld a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Getzendanner that the AMA had engaged in a “lengthy, systematic, successful and unlawful boycott” designed to restrict cooperation between MDs and chiropractors in order to eliminate the profession of chiropractic as a competitor in the U.S. health care system.   Judge Getzendanner rejected the AMA’s patient care defense, and cited scientific studies which implied that “chiropractic care was twice as effective as medical care in relieving many painful conditions of the neck and back as well as related musculo-skeletal problems."  Since the court’s findings and conclusions were released, an increasing number of medical doctors, hospitals, and health care organizations in the U.S. have begun to include the services of chiropractors.

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