Utilization of Chiropractic Services Grows Substantially within U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

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drmorgan2By William E. Morgan, DC

For more than 10 years, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has included chiropractic care as part of its standard medical benefits package offered to all enrolled veterans.

With musculoskeletal conditions ranking as a leading cause of pain and disruption of daily activities among U.S. veterans, it is only logical that the findings of a new study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics document the substantial rise in the use of chiropractic services and the chiropractic workforce in the VA since its introduction over a decade ago.

The growing utilization of chiropractic services among veterans for pain management and other health concerns, particularly those in the Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and older adult populations, showcase the clear-cut demand for the evidence-based, non-drug chiropractic approach and is a direct reflection of the improved clinical outcomes and high patient satisfaction scores that have been documented.

Study Findings

Among the multitude of findings during an 11-year period, the study concludes:

  • The annual number of patients seen in VA chiropractic clinics increased by 821 percent.
  • The annual number of chiropractic visits grew by 693 percent.
  • The total number of VA chiropractic clinics climbed 9 percent annually, and the number of chiropractors employed by the VA increased by 21 percent annually.
  • The average VA chiropractic patient is male, between the ages of 45 and 64, is seen for low back and/or neck conditions, and receives examination, chiropractic spinal manipulation, and other health care services.

Did You Know? 

The number of veterans suffering from chronic pain is substantially higher than the number of U.S. civilians battling chronic pain. Roughly 60 percent of veterans returning from deployments in the Middle East and about 50 percent of older veterans report chronic pain, in comparison to the 30 percent of Americans nationwide.

During 2001-2009, the number of pain relief prescriptions prescribed by military physicians rose to nearly 3.8 million – four times the amount that had been previously reported.

While the physical stress and strain of combat-related injuries and heavy equipment may be a contributing cause to the rise in chronic pain and the number of prescriptions written, drug-free conservative care, including chiropractic, should be considered prior to prescribing opioid painkillers for pain management. 

Doctors of Chiropractic: Get the Facts

Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) receive a minimum of seven years of higher-level education.  They provide non-operative management of musculoskeletal conditions such as back, neck, and joint pain, as well as headaches, through a comprehensive approach including manual techniques and active rehabilitation.

Chiropractic services are integrated with primary care, specialty clinics, and rehabilitation, and provide an evidence-based, cost-effective and non-pharmacologic option for pain management, along with general health and wellness concerns.

Chiropractic care provides veterans with a drug-free, non-invasive, and safer approach to pain management.

William E. Morgan, DC, is an advisor for Foundation for Chiropractic Progress and president of Parker University.