Researchers Test Education for Lowering Costs of Soldier Back Pain

Back pain is the most common injury in US soldiers, affecting nearly half of all veterans.

Research on this specialized group of low-back-pain patients is ongoing. Scientists work to find the most effective treatment to relieve the pain and reduce the chance of disability for our nation's heroes.

Additionally, the military often prompts research studies to discover ways to reduce medical costs for injured soldiers. With low-back pain costing more than $85 billion dollars annually in health-care expenses, it is an area that both civilian and military organizations take an interest in exploring further.

In a recent study, a short-term psychosocial education program was tested for its ability to reduce medical costs for injured soldiers. The goal of the group-classes was to reduce the fear and threat of low-back pain and minimize the need for soldiers to seek health care for treating their back pain.

Researchers analyzed the costs associated with 4,295 soldiers with low-back pain at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. All of the participants were assigned an exercise program. Some were randomly chosen to also attend the psychosocial education program (PSEP), while the rest were not. Researchers compared the two groups over a two-year period for both total health-related expenses and the cost of low-back treatment in particular.

The PSEP resulted in lower medical costs, especially for low-back pain care. Over two years, the savings for back-pain treatment was an average of 26 dollars lower for soldiers who received training than those who didn't. The average savings associated with PSEP was only around two dollars for total health-care costs.

The authors of the study concluded that the education program was only marginally effective in reducing back-pain costs, and ineffective at keeping overall medical cost down. They said that their results will likely inform military decisions about implementing psychosocial education, at least in a group setting. They wrote, "It would be interesting to explore in future research whether cost savings from psychosocial education could be enhanced given a more individualized delivery method tailored to an individual's specific psychosocial risk factors."

Previous research has shown that chiropractic care is an effective way to treat soldiers with low-back pain. And a more recent study highlighted the success of combining chiropractic treatment with standard medical care to improve back pain in military personnel.


Childs JD, Wu SS, Teyhen DS, Robinson ME, George SZ. Prevention of low back pain in the military cluster randomized trial: effects of brief psychosocial education on total and low back pain-related health care costs. The Spine Journal 2013 Apr 19. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2013.03.019. [Epub ahead of print].