Treating Back Pain in Baby Boomers Threatens to Bankrupt the Healthcare System

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The occurrence of back pain in Baby Boomers is escalating. Dr. J G Moellendorf, DC, ND, LCP discusses recent research indicating that these skyrocketing costs threaten to bankrupt the United States’ healthcare system.

The prevalence and chronicity of back pain threatens to strain an already overstretched US healthcare system.

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin Chiropractor and Naturopath Dr. J G Moellendorf, DC, ND, LCP, points out that the Baby Boomer Generation (born 1946 to 1964) has continually caused revolutionary adaptations in society’s infrastructure as they age. There have been rapid expansions to service their needs, followed by rapid contractions. School systems and other infrastructure were overbuilt, only to be torn down or repurposed.

As the Baby Boomers came into the workforce, their taxes generated vast sums of money to support the Social Security and Medicare systems. These benefits radically expanded as there was no apparent end to this growth. Now as the Baby Boomers reach retirement, the US healthcare system must prepare for the impending explosion from increasing healthcare needs with fewer workers to pick up the bills.

In the January 2013 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, researchers Smith, Davis, Stano, and Whedon published the results from analyzing data from a longitudinal Medical Expenditures Panel Survey of 71,838 respondents. They used this data to determine the future impact of an aging population on the trends in back pain and chronicity, along with estimates on the costs for treatment.

The researchers surveyed respondents for back pain at 4 to 6 month intervals across 2 year periods during 2000-2007. The respondents were divided into 5 separate groups: Elders (born before 1935), Preboomers (born 1935-1944), Boomers (born 1945-1964), Postboomers (born 1965-1975), and Younger Adults (born after 1975). They identified 8262 non-chronic and 3842 chronic cases of back pain. During the surveyed time period, overall cases of back pain increased 29%, while chronic back pain increased by 64%. When adjusted to 2010 dollars, costs increased by 129% from $15.6 billion in the 2000-2001 biennium, to $35.7 billion during 2006-2007.

The researchers also noted that back pain is second only to upper respiratory infections for why patients consult doctors. The prevalence of back pain, especially chronic back pain is rapidly escalating, principally because of an aging population. At retirement, 25% of Elders through Baby Boomers have chronic back pain, with 40% of this back pain becoming chronic. In recent years, the prevalence of back pain has been increasing by 8.3% annually, with 25% of sufferers accounting for 75% of costs.

The prevalence and chronicity of back pain threatens to strain an already overstretched US healthcare system. Smith et al. summarized researchers Deyo, Mirza, Turner, and Martin in their paper Overtreating Chronic Back Pain: Time to Back Off?: “It is imperative to identify and dramatically improve the delivery of high-value care. The curative acute model often fails because many will never fully recover from back pain. A chronic care model demands better coordination of care which focuses on prevention, education, self-care, and functional improvement.”

Publishing in the journal Pain, the research team led by Cynthia O Townsend used a multidisciplinary rehabilitation approach for chronic back pain averaging 9 years, which was able to achieve significant and sustained improvements in pain severity and function while withdrawing opioid usage. Townsend’s group notes that doctors treating back pain need to cooperate in developing multi-disciplinary guidelines that identify and encourage the delivery of the most efficient and cost-effective care.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) through its health plan has already taken steps in that direction. Realizing the high failure rate and extensive costs of surgery, the university has studied ways to increase success and minimize costs in treating chronic low back pain. On January 1, 2012, the health plan implemented a clinical initiative stating:

“To be considered for surgery, patients with chronic low back pain must have:

  •     Tried and failed a 3-month course of conservative management, which includes physical therapy, chiropractic therapy, and medication.
  •     Completed UPMC Health Plan’s Low Back Pain Health Coaching Program.”

“This policy was developed using evidence-based literature and professional society guidelines, as well as the input of external medical professionals with expertise in the area”

To quote Dr. J G Moellendorf, DC, ND, LCP, “The results of Chiropractic in the treatment of lower back pain have spoken for themselves in the reduction of time lost from work, reduction of healthcare costs and time off work, increased successful results, and patient satisfaction. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has taken the lead in what doctors should have always been focused on: what is best for the patient.”

Additional information about Chiropractic, Naturopathy, and other forms of natural health care has been provided by Moellendorf Chiropractic Office, Ltd. at Using the latest research findings, Moellendorf Chiropractic Office, Ltd. uses a comprehensive package of Chiropractic care, decompression traction therapy, active therapeutic movement training, cold laser therapy, and natural nutrition for the natural treatment of pain without drugs or surgery.

About: Dr. J G Moellendorf, DC, ND, LCP
Dr. J G Moellendorf, DC, ND, LCP attended the University of Wisconsin—Superior where he majored in Physics and Mathematics, with a minor in art photography. While attending the University of Minnesota—Minneapolis, he assisted in research on ribosomal proteins. Completing his Chiropractic studies at Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, he graduated Cum Laude (with high honors) in 1983. He started Moellendorf Chiropractic Office, Ltd. in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in 1983. In 1996, Dr. Moellendorf was awarded his Doctorate in Naturopathy from Trinity School of Natural Health. In 2001, he received Chiropractic’s most prestigious award, the honorary Legion of Chiropractic Philosophers degree, for his thesis “The Workings of Innate Intelligence in Obsessive/Compulsive and Addictive Behaviors.” This paper was chosen for publishing in the book Philosophic Contemplations vol. 2 in 2002. In June of 2012, Dr. Moellendorf authored his first book titled Healthcare’s Best Kept Secret which can be ordered on Amazon. Dr. Moellendorf can be contacted by phone (920) 493-2126, fax (920) 743-1145, email jgmoellendorf(at)itol(dot)com, his website at, or send a carrier pigeon to 44.84722N and 87.36416W.

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