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Home / News & IndustryManaged Care Insight and Analysis
Updated: July 8, 2008
Chrysler Goes Holistic To Revolutionize Back Pain Care In The Workplace

Armed with the knowledge that low back pain is a prevalent affliction with a hefty price tag, Chrysler LLC has taken a unique approach to alleviate back pain among its employees.

A pilot, holistic program has proven to be 10 times more effective and less costly than conventional physical therapy at eliminating back pain and is expected to translate into significant healthcare expense savings, Chrysler said.

More than half (55 percent) of employees who received the intervention eliminated their chronic back pain, compared to 0 percent of controls at program completion, Chrysler said.

Intervention participants also experienced significant reductions in disability, stress and depressive symptoms, as well as improvement in sleep. In comparison, conventional physical therapy produced only 5 percent elimination of chronic back pain in a separate clinical trial with a similar population, Chrysler said.

These findings offer a glimmer of hope after a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that, despite all the money that has been spent by Americans on back and neck pain relief, pain levels haven’t improved.

In 2007, Chrysler LLC partnered with Health Alliance Plan (HAP), a Detroit-based nonprofit health plan, and the Henry Ford Medical Group (HFMG) provider network to pilot the "We’ve Got Your Back" program at Chrysler’s Auburn Hills headquarters. This holistic approach utilizes complementary and alternative medicine in a group model in the convenience of the workplace.

Using modalities such as group feedback, guided relaxation and somatic movement reduction (teaching the brain to maintain control of the nerve and muscle system and release over-contracted muscles), the program treats a large number of individuals at one time while minimizing time missed from work.

Chrysler recruited more than 200 employees meeting eligibility criteria to participate in the pilot program. Employees were randomized to intervention or untreated control groups and their health status was measured at the start, middle and end of the five-month project period.

HAP and HFMG officials believe this innovative group model has great potential for growth throughout Southeast Michigan workforces and beyond. HAP has developed tools to allow for easy implementation, tailoring and adapting in any worksite setting.

As a result of the successful pilot, Chrysler will continue to offer the program to its employees and will also pilot a separate program using similar complementary and alternative medical techniques to reduce stress. Other southeast Michigan companies have also jumped at the opportunity to bring the programto their employees. The 17,000-employee Henry Ford Health System launched an expanded version of the program in January.

According to the authors of the JAMA study, the U.S. spent nearly $86 billion on treatment of back and neck problems in 2005, an increase of 65 percent from 1997, after adjusting for inflation.

Individuals with spine problems spent over $2,500 more on medical care in 2005 than those without spine problems.

Addresses: Chrysler LLC, P.O. Box 21-8004, Auburn Hills, MI 48321; (800) 992-1997, Henry Ford Health System, One Ford Place, Detroit, MI 48202; (800) 436-7936, Health Alliance Plan, 2850 West Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48202; (313) 872-8100,

  This article was taken from:
The Executive Report on Managed Care

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