Chiropractors Save Over $13B to Federal and Private Insurers


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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 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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