A safe, effective, and affordable alternative to drugs and surgery
As a chiropractor, you are used to seeing patients with acute or chronic back pain; for many, that’s why they come to you in the first place, especially if they are looking for relief without medication or surgery. Spinal decompression therapy (SDT) provides chiropractors an effective method to treat this type of pain—and in a natural and drug-free way.
The typical spinal decompression patient shares a history of multiple failed medical interventions, often culminating in opioid dependency. This patient population is at significant risk of death from overdose and suicide due to the powerfully addictive effects of the opioids they have been prescribed, as well as the depression they face due to the perceived hopelessness of their situation.
By adding spinal decompression to your treatment offerings, you can make a difference in the lives of your patients, as well as help combat the opioid crisis.
Pain and the opioid epidemic
It seems not a day goes by without news of another high-profile individual, member of the local community, or even a family member, succumbing to the effects of opioid addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40 percent of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid, with more than 46 people dying every day from overdoses involving prescription opioids.
The human toll of prescription opioid use, abuse, dependence, overdose, and poisoning rightfully has become a national public health concern. In contrast, SDT can provide light and hope at the end of a seemingly endless path of disability and despair.
Pain and chiropractic intervention
According to a recent Gallup-Palmer Report, approximately 14 percent of the U.S. population has been to a chiropractor in the last 12 months. More than 80 percent, however, will suffer significant low-back pain at some point. So it can be inferred that when people seek treatment for their pain, the primary choice is typically a physician—not a chiropractor. Unfortunately, the therapeutic tools used by most physicians to treat acute and chronic pain are limited to pharmaceutical intervention, corticosteroid injections and ultimately, after several failed attempts—surgery.
SDT provides a drug-free alternative to pain management, a fact that has become even more significant considering the recent directives issued by the American College of Primary Care Physicians, the Joint Commission, and the U.S. Surgeon General urging medical doctors and hospitals to recommend alternative, non-pharmacological interventions for pain relief, including chiropractic care.
A growing patient population in need, combined with a health care system seeking drug-free alternatives, provides the chiropractic profession with the opportunity to assume a role as a first-choice provider of natural, drug-free pain relief.
Like many new technologies, when first introduced to the chiropractic profession, spinal decompression equipment was extremely expensive, affordable to only a limited number of chiropractors; in the early 1990s, spinal decompression tables sold for over $100,000.
Recent innovations in electronics and manufacturing processes have brought the price point of spinal decompression tables within the financial reach of most chiropractors. Top-of-the-line spinal decompression tables now sell in the neighborhood of $10,000. SDT has become a mainstream tool for chiropractors seeking to expand their therapeutic capabilities, as well as the patient population they serve.
As with many emerging technologies, chiropractors seeking to add SDT to their practice should remember caveat emptor—buyer beware. Not all spinal decompression tables are the same. Chiropractors should keep in mind the table they choose will only be as effective as their ability to learn to distinguish which patients are candidates for SDT.
This type of therapy is a doctor-dependent technique; it does not rely upon a special algorithm or device, but upon the clinical skills and knowledge of the provider. SDT currently is not included in the curriculum of most chiropractic colleges. For this reason, most chiropractors must seek education in SDT in a post-graduate setting. This education should be clinically-oriented and applicable to all SDT tables, no matter which brand you choose.
Safe, effective, affordable
SDT is classified a non-covered service by most insurance companies. Even when a patient has insurance coverage, the policy typically has a deductible of $5,000 or more, effectively requiring the patient to self-pay for SDT services. For these reasons, not only must SDT be effective, it must be affordable.
Chiropractors must learn how to deliver cash-paid services, including SDT, in a way that enables patients to fit this much-needed therapy into their family budgets.
Once again, chiropractors must be aware there are rules and regulations governing the documentation, coding, fee-setting, and advertising of non-covered services such as SDT. Be sure to seek advice from a knowledgeable consultant prior to implementing any cash-pay programs to be sure they are compliant with all state and federal laws and regulations.
Hope for those in pain
SDT has provided countless patients relief when they thought there could be none. It has enabled many to break the cycle of opioid dependency, regain normal family and work lives, and become productive members of society. This has helped them regain their ability to function as well as their self-esteem.
Chiropractic and SDT are perfectly positioned to play a significant role in providing a safe, effective, and affordable solution for back pain.
Mark Sanna, DC, ACRB Level II, FICC, is a member of the Chiropractic Summit and a board member of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress. He is the president and CEO of Breakthrough Coaching, and can be contacted at 800-723-8423 or through mybreakthrough.com.