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Papers of the Week

Papers: 4 May 2019 - 10 May 2019


Human Studies

2019 Nov

J Pain



Patient willingness to pay (WTP) for reductions in chronic low back pain and chronic neck pain.


Herman PM, Luoto JE, Kommareddi M, Sorbero ME, Coulter ID
J Pain. 2019 Nov; 20(11):1317-1327.
PMID: 31071447.


Many recommended nonpharmacologic therapies for patients with chronic spinal pain require visits to providers such as acupuncturists and chiropractors. Little information is available to inform third-party payers' coverage policies regarding ongoing use of these therapies. This study offers contingent valuation-based estimates of patient willingness-to-pay (WTP) for pain reductions from a large (n=1583) sample of patients using ongoing chiropractic care to manage their chronic low-back and neck pain. Average WTP estimates were $45.98 (45.8) per month per 1-point reduction in current pain for chronic low-back pain and $37.32 (38.0) for chronic neck pain. These estimates met a variety of validity checks including that individuals' values define a downward-sloping demand curve for these services. Comparing these WTP estimates to patients' actual use of chiropractic care over the next 3 months indicates that these patients are likely "buying" perceived pain reductions from what they believe their pain would have been if they didn't see their chiropractor-i.e., they value maintenance of their current mild pain levels. These results provide some evidence for co-pay levels and their relationship to patient demand but call into question ongoing coverage policies that require documentation of continued improvement or of experienced clinical deterioration with treatment withdrawal. Perspective: This study provides estimates of reported willingness-to-pay for pain reduction from a large sample of patients using chiropractic care to manage their chronic spinal pain and compares these estimates to what these patients do for care over the next 3 months, to inform coverage policies for ongoing care.