Headaches and Migraines:

Chiropractic Saves Federal and Private Insurers $13,680,000,000

and Resolves Many Issues Facing Emergency Rooms Today

A report on the scientific literature 

by Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP

Published in Dynamic Chiropractic, Volume 29, Issue 22

It was reported by Doheny in 2006 that migraine headaches cost U.S. employers more than $24 billion annually, including direct health care costs and indirect expenses such as absenteeism. Doheny goes on to report that according to Michael Staufacker, director of program development for StayWell Health Management in St. Paul, Minnesota, "The programs are so few and far between because many companies ‘don't perceive it as a priority’" (p. 10).

Much of the public perceive headaches and migraines as normal occurrences. For example, a patient will enter a doctor's office and report they get normal headaches, not realizing that pain is never a normal occurrence. Symons, Shinde and Gilles (2008) highlighted a statement from http://www.iasp-pain.org saying that pain is "'an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage'" (p. 277). As a result of the public not taking many types of headaches as potential serious problems, they let the condition linger and that can lead to negative sequella.

According to Munakata, Hazard, Serrano, Klingman, Rupnow, Tierce, Reed and Lipton (2009) "...neuroimaging studies have provided compelling evidence that suggests progressive brain changes in persons with migraines...migraine frequency is associated with posterior circulation infarcts and diffuse white-matter lesions...Welch et al. showed that impairments in iron homeostasis in periaqueductal grey areas that were associated with migraine duration and chronic daily headache" (Munakata et al., 2009, p. 499).

Munakata et al. also reported that the economic impact of migraines in both direct healthcare costs and indirect costs of absenteeism is a huge economic burden. The direct cost of migraines ranges from $127 to $7,089 per and the indirect cost due to absenteeism ranges from $709 to $4,453 per victim, making migraines an economic burden to the individual, the insurer, the employer with absenteeism and increased benefits paid and local, state and federal entities who will experience a lowered tax base from lost wages. It was also reported that between 2005 and 2006 there were 1,729,555 physician office visits, 186,603 advanced imaging procedures, 59,589 other diagnostic procedures, and 22,168 hospital days with a primary diagnosis of migraine or headache; all of which are paid by private or public insurers or out of the pockets of individuals. In short, the costs are staggering and a burden to the economy.

Friedman, Feldon, Holloway and Fisher (2009) reported that acute headaches account for 5% of emergency department (ED) visits in hospitals. In addition, they also reported that "…the ED environment that may also contribute to unsatisfactory treatment response include limited physician contact time that may preclude a detailed history, overuse of ED by patients with substance abuse problems, the need for rapid triage, the competing distraction of patients with life-threatening conditions, and directives (or lack thereof) for care dictated by the referring physician…Thus, the treatment of migraine patients in the ED appears to be suboptimal and the high rate of recurrent headache may be attributed to underutilization of relatively ‘migraine specific’ treatment" (Friedman et al., 2009, p. 1164).

Nelson, Suter, Casha, du Plessis and Hurlbert (1998) reported on randomized clinical trials that took place over an 8-week course. The results showed there was minor statistical differences in outcomes for improvement during the trial period for chiropractic care and for amatriptyline and over-the-counter medications for treating migraine headaches. It was also reported that there was no statistical benefit in combining therapies. However, the major factor is that in the post-treatment follow-up period, chiropractic was 57% more effective in the reduction of headaches than drug therapy. In addition, it was reported that, with the drug group, "...58% experienced medication side effects important enough to report them. In the amatriptyline group, 10% of the subjects had to withdraw from the study because of intolerable side effects. Side effects in the SMT (Spinal Manipulative Therapy) group were much more benign, infrequent, mild and transitory. None required withdrawal from the study (Nelson et al., 1998, p. 511). Although this study was conducted 13 years ago, a more current study by Chaibi, Tuchin and Russell (2011) reported that that massage therapy, physiotherapy, relaxation and chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy might be equally effective as propranolol and topiramate in the prophylactic management of migraine, supporting the previous findings. Although more research is desperately needed, the above conclusions give the public clear directions with migraines and headaches.

Using the 57% increased effectiveness that chiropractic has over drug therapy (leaving out the overlap that chiropractic could help without drugs) and the $24,000,000,000 ($24 billion) Americans pay for headaches and migraines, the savings would result in $13,680,000,000. back in the insurers, the public's and the government's pockets. In addition, if chiropractic reduced the necessity for emergency room visits by 57%, then the ED doctors could focus on what their primary purpose is, to save lives in urgent scenarios.

Chiropractic offers solutions to the federal government, local government, public and private insurance companies, eases the burden on emergency rooms and prevents unnecessary side effects of drugs that are not clinically indicated, with a more viable and proven drugless solution. Although much more research is desperately needed to explore the benefits of chiropractic with migraines and headaches, the research that is available clearly reports that chiropractic offers immediate solutions. These solutions will add to the economy of local, state and federal governments by increasing the tax base and productivity in the marketplace as a result of keeping workers at work and circulating money into local economies with increased paychecks at the end of the year and productivity avoiding absenteeism. The research is conclusive and chiropractic has solutions to many of the economic and societal problems in the United States and worldwide.


1. Doheny, K. (2006). Recognizing the financial pain of migraines. Workforce Management, 85(16), 10-12.

2. Symons, F. J., Shinde, S. K., & Gilles, E. (2008). Perspectives on pain and intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 52(Pt 4), 275-286.

3. Munakata, J., Hazard, E., Serrano, D., Klingman, D., Rupnow, M. F. T., Tierce, J., Reed, M., & Lipton, R. (2009). Economic burden of transformed migraine: Results from the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study. Headache, 49(4), 498-508.

4. Friedman, D., Feldon, S., Holloway, R., & Fisher, S. (2009). Utilization, diagnosis, treatment and cost of migraine treatment in the emergency department. Headache, 49(8),1163-1173.

5. Nelson, C. F., Bronfort, G., Evans, R., Boline, P., Goldsmith, C., & Anderson, A. V. (1998). The efficacy of spinal manipulation, amitriptyline and the combination of both therapies for the prophylaxis of migraine headache. Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics, 21(8), 511-519.

6. Chaibi, A., Tuchin, P. J., & Russell, M.B. (2011). Manual therapies for migraine: A systematic review. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 12(2), 127-133.



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Published in Headaches-Migraines


Chiropractic Saves Federal and Private Insurers

$15,897,840,000 and Adds $692,160,000

in Wages to Americans


A report on the scientific literature 

by Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP

It was reported by Zigler in 2011 that 200,000 spinal fusion surgeries are performed each year, just in the United States alone. An equal number of microdiscectomies are performed as reported by Mayer (2006), which is considered by many to be a conservative number. Let's consider the chiropractic impact of exposing the public to treatment that could avoid needless surgeries, using the 400,000 disc surgeries as a conservative number, not to mention how this could change the unnecessary cost to government and private insurers and lost revenue to both governmental agencies and workers from absenteeism. Allen and Garfin (2010) reported that spine-related health care expenditures totalled over $97.5 billion (2011 inflation adjusted), a 65% increase from 1997. With an aging population, this trend, based on the biomechanics of the aged, will continue.

It was reported by McMorland, Suter, Casha, du Plessis, and Hurlbert in 2010 that over 250,000 patients a year undergo elective lumbar discectomy (spinal surgery) for the treatment of low back disc issues in the United States. The researchers did a comparative randomized clinical study comparing spinal microdiscectomy (surgery) performed by neurosurgeons to non-operative manipulative treatments (chiropractic adjustments) performed by chiropractors. They compared quality of life and disabilities of the patients in the study.

The study was limited to patients with distinct one-sided lumbar disc herniations as diagnosed via MRI and had associated radicular (nerve root) symptoms. Based upon the authors’ review of available MRI studies, the patients participating in the study were all initially considered surgical candidates. Both the surgical and chiropractic groups reported no new neurological problems and had only minor post-treatment soreness. 60% of the patients who underwent chiropractic care reported a successful outcome while 40% required surgery and of those 40%, all reported successful outcomes. This study concluded that 60% of the potential surgical candidates had positive outcomes utilizing chiropractic as the alternative to surgery.

Let's do the math. If we take the 400,000 disc surgeries (adding cervical surgeries to the equation) done each year as discussed in the opening paragraph and apply McMorland et al.'s (2010) findings that 60% of surgical candidates had successful outcomes with chiropractic as an alternative to surgery, 240,000 patients yearly could avoid needless surgery if they sought chiropractic care.

According to Sherman, Cauthen, Schoenberg, Burns, Reaven and Griffith in 2010, the 2010 inflation adjusted amount per case in Medicare dollars is $13,243.82 per patient once you take into consideration the complications, but exclude many other variables such as repeated MRI's, myelograms, and many hospital charges. Allen and Garfin (2010), taking into account total charges, including mean hospital charges for a single level, uncomplicated, minimally invasive surgery, reported the cost to be $70,159 for all payors. They also went on to report that for 2-level disc surgeries the complication rate increased by 25% with significantly more costs.

If you consider 240,000 preventable surgeries at $70,159 per patient, that equates to $16,838,160,000 healthcare dollars that did not have to be spent. MEDSTAT, as reported by Chiropractic Lifecare of America (2009), estimated that the average cost of chiropractic care per patient per case is $3,918 (2011 inflation adjusted dollars.) If you take this amount and apply it to the 240,000 unnecessary surgeries, you have a net savings of $66,241 per patient. The net savings to the Medicare system and private insurers is $15,897,840,000.

According to Fayssoux, Goldfarb, Vaccaro, James (2010) who studied the indirect costs associated with surgery for low back pain, the average lost productivity related to absenteeism resulted in lost wages of $2,884 per patient for the first postoperative year. "The findings demonstrate the significant, though not surprising, impact of spinal disability on productivity, and the importance of including measurement of lost productivity and return to work..." (Fayssoux et al., 2010, p. 9). This equals an additional $692,160,000 in wages to Americans per year by taking the necessity of absenteeism out of the equation with no surgeries to recover from.

Chiropractic offers solutions to the federal government, local government, and public and private insurance companies by avoiding unnecessary surgeries. Chiropractic offers solutions to the economy of local, state and federal governments by increasing the tax base and productivity in the marketplace as a result of keeping workers at work and circulating money into local economies with increased paychecks at the end of the year. The research is conclusive and chiropractic has solutions to many of the economic and societal problems in the United States and worldwide.


1. Zigler, J. (2002). Lumbar artificial disc surgery for chronic back pain. spine-health. Retrieved fromhttp://www.spine-health.com/treatment/artificial-disc-replacement/lumbar-artificial-disc-surgery-chronic-back-pain

2. Allen, R. T., & Garfin, S. R. (2010). The economics of minimally invasive spine surgery: The value perspective. Spine, 35(Suppl. 26), 375-382.

3. Mayer, H. M. (Ed.). (2006). Minimally invasive spine surgery: A surgical manual. Germany: Springer.

3. McMorland, G., Suter, E., Casha, S., du Plessis, S. J., & Hurlbert, R. J. (2010). Manipulation or microdiskectomy for sciatica? A prospective randomized clinical study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 33(8), 576-584.

4. Sherman, J., Cauthen, J., Schoenberg, D., Burns, M., Reaven, N. L., & Griffith, S. L. (2010). Economic impact of improving outcomes of lumbar discectomy. The Spine Journal, 10(2), 108–116.

5. Chiropractic Lifecare of America. (2009). The MESTAT Project. Learning. Retrieved from http://www.clahealthcare.com/learning/index.html

6. Fayssoux, R., Goldfarb, N. I., Vaccaro, A. R., & Harrop, J. (2010). Indirect costs associated with surgery for low back pain—A secondary analysis of clinical trial data. Population Health Management, 13(1), 9-13.

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