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.
Herman PM, Szczurko O, Cooley K, et al.. Cost-effectiveness of naturopathic care for chronic low back pain.. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. .; ;14(2):32–39..2008