October is National Chiropractic Health Month. This year we want to focus on strength and stability of the body. Our musculoskeletal system – comprised of our muscles, bones and joints – plays an important role in helping us get and stay stronger at all stages of life. An who doesn’t want to be strong and healthy?

When injured, or just through normal aging, the musculoskeletal system can also be a source of debilitating pain. Low back pain, one of the most common musculoskeletal complaints, is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. Taking steps to improve musculoskeletal health is a smart way to live healthier and actively now and into the future.

Chiropractic care, focusing on musculoskeletal health, can lead to strengthstability and ultimately the success of a life lived more fully and actively. Let’s take a look at some of the facts and figures around musculoskeletal health and how effective chiropractic can be.

Movement and Musculoskeletal Health

  • More than one in two adults report experiencing a musculoskeletal condition. Some of the most common include low back pain, neck pain, arthritis, osteoporosis and injuries.1
  • Musculoskeletal conditions are the most commonly reported medical conditions among people under age 65 and the second most commonly reported condition among those age 65 and older.1
  • 52% of people with musculoskeletal disorders say that they interfere with activities of daily living.1
  • By limiting our ability to move and exercise, musculoskeletal conditions can in turn affect overall health in negative ways as we age by contributing overweight and obesity, which can lead to chronic health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.2
  • An active lifestyle, leading to a higher level of physical fitness, is related to better spinal control in middle-aged men and women.3
  • There is substantial evidence that physical activity has beneficial effects on most musculoskeletal conditions, including low back pain. 4
  • More than a quarter of all adults worldwide (1.4 billion worldwide) do not get enough physical activity.5
  • Bone mass usually peaks in the third decade of life, but physical activity can improve the strength of your bones at any age.6
  • Deaths from falls among seniors age 75 and over have increased three-fold in recent years and total about 25,000 annually.7
  • Experts say improving muscle strength and balance can help reduce the risk of falls in the elderly.8

Back Pain

  • Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide.9
  • Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.10
  • Back pain alone accounts for more than 264 million lost U.S. work days in one year.11
  • Experts estimate that as much as 80% of the population will experience back pain at some time in their lives.12
  • Low back pain costs Americans at least $50 billion in health care costs each year—add in lost wages and decreased productivity and that figure easily rises to more than $100 billion.14

Back Pain and the Opioid Epidemic

  • Almost half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.15
  • Back pain is one of the leading reasons why people are prescribed opioids.16
  • Research shows that opioids do not provide clinically meaningful pain relief for people with chronic back pain.17
  • As many as one in four people who receive prescription opioids long term for non-cancer pain in primary care settings struggle with addiction.18
  • In 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids.19
  • Almost 80 percent of Americans prefer to first use options other than prescription drugs for their pain.20

Effectiveness of Chiropractic Care

  • Chiropractors are widely recognized as providing the safest drug-free, non-invasive therapies available for the treatment of back pain and other musculoskeletal complaints.21
  • A recent clinical comparative trial found that chiropractic care combined with usual medical care for low back pain provides greater pain relief and a greater reduction in disability than medical care alone.22
  • Injured workers with similar injuries are 28 times less likely to have spinal surgery if the first point of contact is a doctor of chiropractic (DC) rather than a surgeon (MD).23
  • In 2017, the American College of Physicians (ACP) updated its guideline for the treatment of acute and chronic low back pain to recommend first using noninvasive, nondrug treatments—including spinal manipulation—before resorting to over-the-counter and prescription drugs.24
  • In January 2015, the Joint Commission, the organization that accredits more than 20,000 health care systems in the U.S. including every major hospital, recognized the value of nondrug approaches by adding care provided by doctors of chiropractic to its pain management standard.25
  • Among older adults, access to chiropractic care may reduce medical spending on services for spine conditions.26


  1. The Hidden Impact of Musculoskeletal Disorders on Americans, United State Bone and Joint Initiative, 2018.
  2. “Top 10 Things to Know About the Second Edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/10things/.
  3. Aasa U et al. Physical activity might be of greater Importance for good spinal control than if you have had pain or not. Spine 2015; 40:1926–1933.
  4. Olaya-Contreras et al. The effect of the stay active advice on physical activity and on the course of acute severe low back pain. BMC Sports Science, Medicine, and Rehabilitation, 2015; 7:19.
  5. Guthold et al. Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1·9 million participants. Lancet Global Health, Sept. 2018; doi https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(18)30357-7.Hoy D et al. The global burden of low back pain: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. Ann Rheum Dis. 2014 June; 73(6):968-74. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-204428.
  6. “Exercise for Your Bone Health,” National Institutes for Health, https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/exercise/exercise-your-bone-health
  7. Hartholt KA, Lee R, Burns ER, van Beeck EF. Mortality From Falls Among US Adults Aged 75 Years or Older, 2000-2016. JAMA. 2019;321(21):2131–2133. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.4185
  8. Liu-Ambrose T, Davis JC, Best JR, et al. Effect of a Home-Based Exercise Program on Subsequent Falls Among Community-Dwelling High-Risk Older Adults After a Fall: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2019;321(21):2092–2100. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.5795
  9. Hoy D, March L, Brooks P, et al The global burden of low back pain: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases Published Online First: 24 March 2014. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-204428
  10. Vallfors B. Acute, subacute and chronic low back pain: Clinical symptoms, absenteeism and working environment. Scan J Rehab Med Suppl 1985; 11: 1-98.
  11. The Hidden Impact of Musculoskeletal Disorders on Americans, United State Bone and Joint Initiative, 2018.
  12. Rubin Dl. Epidemiology and risk factors for spine pain. Neurol Clin. 2007; May; 25(2):353-71.
  13. In Project Briefs: Back Pain Patient Outcomes Assessment Team (BOAT). In MEDTEP Update, Vol. 1 Issue 1, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Rockville, MD.
  14. Katz JN. Lumbar disc disorders and low-back pain: Socioeconomic factors and consequences. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2006; 88(suppl 2): 21-24.
  15. Wide-ranging online data for epidemiologic research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2016. Available at https://wonder.cdc.gov.
  16. Mojtabai R. National trends in long-term use of prescription opioids. Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, 2017; doi 10.1002/pds.4278.
  17. Abdel Shaheed C et al. Efficacy, tolerability, and dose-dependent effects of opioid analgesics for low back pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(7):958–968. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.1251
  18. Boscarino JA et al. Risk factors for drug dependence among out-patients on opioid therapy in a large U.S. health-care system. Addiction 2010;105:1776–82. https://dx.doi. org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.03052.
  19. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2014.
  20. “Americans Prefer Drug-Free Pain Management Over Opioids,” Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic Annual Survey of Americans, https://www.gallup.com/reports/217676/americans-prefer-drug-free-pain-management-opioids.aspx
  21. Meeker WC, Haldeman S. Chiropractic: a profession at the crossroads of mainstream and alternative medicine. Annals of Internal Medicine, Feb 2002; 136(3):216-27.
  22. Goertz CM et al. Effect of usual medical care plus chiropractic care vs usual medical care alone on pain and disability among US service members with low back pain: A comparative effectiveness clinical trial. JAMA Network Open, 2018;1(1):e180105. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0105.
  23. Keeney BJ et al. Early predictors of lumbar spinal surgery after occupational back injury; Results from a prospective study of workers in Washington State. Spine, May 2013; 38(11):953-64. doi:  10.1097/BRS.0b013e3182814ed5.
  24. Qaseem A et al. Noninvasive treatments for acute, subacute, and chronic low back pain: A clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2017;166(7):514-530. doi: 10.7326/M16-2367.
  25. “Clarification of the Pain Management Standard,” The Joint Commission, 2015: https://www.jointcommission.org/assets/1/18/Clarification_of_the_Pain_Management__Standard.pdf.
  26. Matthew A. et all. Access to chiropractic care and the cost of spine conditions among older adults. Am J Manag Care. 2019;25(8):e230-e236.

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