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Dynamic Chiropractic

Using Topical Analgesics to Increase Practice Revenue

By Ethan Pochman

Topical Analgesics are a natural, mission-aligned fit with Chiropractic care and all its goals: clinical excellence, practice building, and financial performance. This is true from a purely clinical perspective for topical analgesics that are proven effective and are preferred by patients and doctors because of their ability to impact patient satisfaction, treatment, and outcomes.

Additionally, topical analgesics are not systemic in their impact, such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or COX-2 inhibitors and opioids. Some also feature natural ingredients.

From a practice building perspective strong topical analgesic brand awareness and its unique link to hands-on healthcare practitioners can help you find and retain patients. The key here is partnering with a product that has the power to bring people to you and then helps you market to them via free practice-building services such as customized product samples and online referral tools.

On the financial side, finding and retaining patients, as well as selling needed products like topical analgesics, obviously can contribute significantly to your practice revenue and your profits. Providing products as a professional service is a benefit to your patients and a way to ensure that they receive the right products. When you offer products you believe in and allow your patients to try the products for free, there is no pressure to buy. The right products are truly effective and, ultimately, sell themselves.

The powerful alignment of topical analgesics and Chiropractic explains why a Dynamic Chiropractic Topical Analgesic survey in December 2009 revealed that "of those surveyed, 91% use topical analgesics in their practice. This places the use of topical analgesics just under nutritional supplements (used by 94%) as one of the most used products in chiropractic practice in the United States."

This reported usage level is merely the tip of the topical analgesic iceberg. Though most Chiropractors use topical analgesics, many do not fully leverage this powerful, natural alignment to the full benefit of their patients and their practice.

Why Topicals?

From a clinical perspective, one of the primary symptoms Chiropractors deal with is pain. Chiropractic treatments, via varied modalities and techniques, can be incredibly effective at relieving pain. Topical analgesics play a critical supporting role in every aspect of the treatment process.

Applied prior to in office treatments, topical analgesics can promote temporary pain-free movement of muscles and joints to prepare for adjustments and other forms of manual therapy or in-clinic exercise. This approach can lessen muscle guarding and apprehension that might limit the effectiveness of treatment. Topical analgesics may also allow you to treat someone who would otherwise not tolerate your intervention due to their pain.

Applied after treatment, topical analgesics can lessen any soreness associated with manipulation or the use of tools, and can even add a positive sensation following an ultrasound treatment. Menthol based topical analgesics are particularly helpful here given the cooling sensation they achieve as part of the pain relief process. When used to enable exercise, topical analgesics promote faster long-term healing and recovery.

At their core, topical analgesics can provide a natural pain relief experience and eliminate the patient's need for oral drugs, NSAIDs, or opioids. In 2000, the American College of Rheumatology began promoting topical analgesics as a primary therapy for arthritic disorders before relying on NSAIDs because of the negative side effects of NSAIDs.

How To Choose

Even though topical analgesics can provide a more natural option for pain relief, there are a few things to look closely at when selecting a product.

Ingredients for topical analgesics can be measured by their quality level. Look for products that use United States Pharmacopeia (USP) grade active ingredients. USP sets standards for quality, purity, strength, and consistency in health products. Some manufacturers focus on both quality and natural ingredients and even provide colorless options.

Additionally, those who make claims that are consistent with the claims allowed by the FDA provide much needed patient and practitioner confidence and protection. The FDA allows topical analgesics to claim the following only: "Provides temporary relief of minor aches and pains of muscles and joints, which may be associated with simple backache, arthritis, strains, bruises, and/or sprains; providing penetrating or cooling pain relief."

This guidance from the FDA relates to all topical analgesics classified as OTC (over-the-counter) drugs. Beware of any topical analgesic product that claims more than this. Such claims are a violation of the law in the United States.

Check the Research

Some manufacturers have conducted clinical research on their products to understand and support efficacy and performance. For example, a number of studies have documented the impact of topical analgesics on pain and blood flow, while also capturing the very favorable comparison of the tested brand of topical analgesic to ice.

Other forms of clinical feedback can be valuable as well. Visit the Facebook page of topical analgesic products to gain an unbiased view of the patient response to these products. Post after post of unsolicited user experiences document meaningful pain relief that has significantly improved that user's quality of life. This can increase your confidence in the efficacy of that particular brand of topical analgesic. My company's research in 2010 showed that 70% of Chiropractors felt their use of topical analgesics would increase in the future because they were "finding topical analgesics to be effective for [their] patients." (Data on File, Performance Health, August 2010)


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