Alternatives better for spine

A prestigious research paper published in the peer reviewed journal Spine in March of this year found only 0.8 percent or less than 1 percent of individuals suffering with spinal stenosis required spinal surgery. Out of a population of nearly 500,000 individuals, Adogwa and his research colleagues reported over 99 percent of individuals with spinal stenosis secondary to such conditions as spinal degeneration, facet joint arthritis and disc disorders would be better served outside of spinal surgical intervention.

This powerful report further supports our state’s recent legislative approach to aide in curbing opioid use by recognizing non-drug interventions for serious spinal conditions do in fact work. Commonly seen conditions for the aging population, such as spinal stenosis, is now been given a boost by our state’s forward thinking and educated legislators when passing Senate Bill 273 in March of 2018. Expanding access to non-drug professionals in the areas of chiropractic, physical therapy, acupuncture and massage based therapies will help to reduce and eliminate chronic pain, improve on outcomes driven by scientifically supported care choices, and lastly, reduce health care costs.

To combat the over prescribing practices in the form of opioids, our state legislature mandated our state’s citizens greater access to chiropractic, physical therapy, massage and now acupuncture with 20 sessions of care by companies offering insurance plans in the state, including PEIA and Medicaid programs offered through the Affordable Care Act. Traditional Medicaid programs have yet to seek a waiver to include expansion in these valuable services but hopefully our state’s Bureau of Medical Services will do the right thing and get these services fully covered.

The research is further supported by work completed and published by a Dr. Elton of Optum, the research arm for UnitedHealth Care. Dr. Elton’s work found the highest expenditures were associated with back surgery, followed by spinal injections, and lastly, visits to a primary physician. Surgery, once considered by the public as a type of fix to a person’s back pain is now seen as the last resort due in large part to its limited selection process reported in the literature. Research supports chiropractic care as being uniformly appropriate to care of the spine based on the high outcomes, reduced need for opioid use and significant reduction in surgery and spinal injections. I might add, patients report they are often told paralysis is likely to occur if they avoid undergoing surgery for the spine. Let me reassure the public now, very few individuals suffer with paralysis from degenerative disc disease or bulging discs.

Now that the state legislature has acted, insurance companies providing coverage in West Virginia are mandated to cover these services. We can expect to begin witnessing improvements in the form of lowered costs and better outcomes as more individuals make themselves available to the highly effective, non-drug approaches found throughout the community. The prejudices and poor science of yesterday will hopefully give way to a better tomorrow for the suffering. Improvement in cost savings from greater utilization in the non-drug arts of chiropractic, massage, acupuncture and physical therapy can then be spent on other important areas of health care.

Byron Folwell