New research estimates nearly half a billion dollars in annual savings for Medicare by treating chronic lower back pain with TENS


DJO Global has released an independent, estimated financial impact on Medicare patients who suffer from chronic low back pain. The financial impact calculation estimates that using the current standard of care procedures to treat approximately 1.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who have chronic low-back pain and seek medical intervention now costs approximately US$1.3 billion annually. If all of those patients are supplied with a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation system (TENS), in place of other treatment options, Medicare could save an estimated US$417 million.

The research supports DJO Global’s Motion is Medicine initiative, a first of its kind effort to help patients restore lost motion, maintain activity levels, and improve overall health. The initiative addresses four areas; pain, alignment, strength and stability. After the onset of a chronic pain condition such as osteoarthritis or chronic low-back pain, a patient is often inactive, which can lead to weight gain, health decline and major medical problems down the road. Using conservative care options that promote a patient’s ability to move can decrease hypertension, BMI, blood pressure and a host of other complications and readmissions. Furthermore, motion and conservative care promotes patient engagement in wellness and helps control costs for specific bundled payments for healthcare providers.

“Physicians and hospitals continue to focus on controlling costs, enhancing the patient experience and improving the overall health of the communities they serve. Many clinicians have initiated a conservative care treatment option instead of surgery for their patients. They have experienced the value of including TENS as part of their standardised protocols. Pain management is a critical part of the patient experience and surgeons are looking for alternatives to narcotics and anti-inflammatory medications,” says Sharon Wolfington, president of Global Recovery Sciences, DJO Global. 

“Our Motion is Medicine initiative supports standardised conservative care treatments, such as TENS, that will help healthcare providers expand protocol management models to meet new requirements. We acknowledge that there will always be patients who require surgery and physical therapy for an optimal outcome and more follow up research and data analysis is required to present ongoing expanded clinical evidence in support of conservative care options,” Wolfington adds.

The cost figures were calculated based on a recently published study in volume 36, issue 12 of Orthopedics, which looked at the clinical and economic impact of TENS in patients with chronic low-back pain. The study evaluated patients who were given TENS compared with a statistically matched group without TENS for 1-year prior to intervention and for 1-year of follow-up. Patients who were treated with TENS had significantly fewer hospital and clinic visits, used less diagnostic imaging, had fewer physical therapy visits, and required less back surgery than patients receiving other treatment modalities. Furthermore, TENS is non-invasive and non-narcotic, so it does not have the risks associated with other treatment approaches.