Integrated care involves a diverse group of professionals working together to help patients achieve and sustain optimal levels of mental, physical and social health.
Research indicates that, on its most basic level, integrative care can reduce duplication or fragmentation of services. It also allows for the pooling of resources, reduces costs for patients and has the potential to improve care quality.
Studies involving chiropractic specifically have connected integrated care with better patient outcomes, particularly in the long term. This highlights the benefit of DCs connecting with other professionals who can help promote a patient’s health, albeit in different ways.
Here are several professionals who can serve as valuable resources for chiropractic providers — mainly due to their services providing more favorable health outcomes when conducted in combination with spinal manipulation — making them a good addition to an integrative care team:
- Medical doctors. A study involving 750 active-duty military personnel found that chiropractic combined with medical care was more effective for low–back pain relief than chiropractic alone. Thus, working with a patient’s established medical provider to devise a treatment plan can provide them with this advantage.
- Physical therapists. Several pieces of research also support integrating chiropractic with physical therapy. For example, a 2019 case study reported a combination approach was beneficial for a patient with acute unilateral foot drop. A 2021 study adds that a combined approach also offers greater motor function improvement for stroke patients. If a patient isn’t currently working with a physical therapist for these types of issues, referring them to one may offer a better treatment effect.
- Massage therapists. Chiropractic Economics’ 26th Annual Salary and Expense Survey found 41% of practitioners offer massage therapy in their offices. There’s a good reason for this. A small-scale study of women with low–back pain revealed that combining the two therapies “had a rapid effect in reducing pain.” If you don’t have a massage therapist on staff, connecting with a local therapist can help you grow your integrated care team.
- Acupuncturists. Around 16% of DCs also provide acupuncture in their practices, according to Chiropractic Economics’ most recent survey. A combination chiropractic-acupuncture approach can be beneficial for a variety of health issues, such as cervical spondylosis radiculotherapy, as suggested in a 2020 meta-analysis.
- Mental health professionals. Mental and physical health are deeply intertwined, with changes in one often instigating or influencing changes in the other. This holds true with musculoskeletal health specifically, as research indicates there are connections between chronic back pain and depression, disc herniation and anxiety, low bone density and mood or anxiety disorders, and more. Asking patients about their mental health and referring them to reputable mental health providers when necessary can help treat musculoskeletal disorders from multiple vantage points.
- Social workers. A 2020 study in the Journal of Orthopaedics connects socioeconomic status with physical limitation levels in patients with musculoskeletal disorders, particularly when the patient is unemployed, a student or retired. Individuals in certain socioeconomic groups may benefit from available resources designed to meet their needs. Having a social worker on an integrated care team helps identify programs that can help, along with connecting patients with them to apply for services.
Ultimately, it is up to the patient to work with each member of an integrated care team to advance or protect their health. Yet, having a predetermined group of professionals available in each of these areas can help fill the gap when a patient isn’t currently receiving those types of services. These are just a few of the options to consider as you work toward building a well-rounded integrated care team for a patient.