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Study Points to Cost-Effectiveness of Naturopathic Care for Low-Back Pain

Researchers who studied treatment alternatives for low-back pain in a group of 70 warehouse workers found that a naturopathic approach incorporating a range of treatment options—acupuncture, exercise and dietary advice, relaxation training, and a back-care booklet—was more cost-effective than the employer’s usual patient education program. Both the workers and the employer benefited from the naturopathic approach, which was associated with better health-related quality of life, less absenteeism, and lower costs for other treatments and pain medication. Overall, naturopathic care resulted in a net savings (reduced “societal cost”) of $1,212 per participant.

In this NCCAM-funded study, Patricia Herman, N.D., and colleagues recruited workers ages 18 to 65 who had experienced low-back pain for at least 6 weeks. The workers were randomly assigned to receive naturopathic care or patient education visits over a 3-month period. The 30-minute, onsite visits were conducted semiweekly (naturopathic) or biweekly (patient education).

The researchers conclude that naturopathic care is more cost-effective than a patient education program in treating low-back pain. They also recommend further studies of the economic impact of naturopathic medicine, particularly to address the limitations of their evaluation.

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Publication Date: 
March 1, 2008

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