Treatment for musculoskeletal disorders in primary care in Sweden is usually begun with advice and medication. Second-line therapy is physiotherapy and/or injection and radiography; third-line therapy is referral to an orthopedist. Manual therapy is not routine. It is difficult to identify patients who benefit from treatment by different specialists. The current referral strategy most likely adds to the long waiting lists in orthopedic departments, which is costly and implies extended periods of suffering for the patients. The objective of this health economic evaluation was to compare costs and outcomes from naprapathic manual therapy (NMT) with orthopedic standard care for common, low-prioritized, nonsurgical musculoskeletal disorders, after second-line treatment. Diagnose Related Groups were used to define the costs, and the SF-36 was encoded to evaluate the outcomes in cost per quality adjusted life years gained. Results from a 12 months’ follow-up exhibited significantly larger improvement for the NMT than for orthopedic standard care, significantly lower mean cost per patient; 5427 SEK (*Price level 2009; 1 Euro=106,213 SEK; 1 US Dollar=76,457 SEK) (95% confidence interval, 3693-7161) compared to14298 SEK (95% confidence interval, 8322-20,274), and more gains in outcomes in cost per quality adjusted life years per patient (0.066 compared with 0.026). Thus the result is “dominant.”
It is plausible that improved outcomes and reasonable expense reduction for low-prioritized nonsurgical outpatients would be attainable if NMT were available as an additional standard care option in orthopedic outpatient clinics.