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Chrysler Goes Holistic to Revolutionize Back Pain Care in the Workplace

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Feb. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Armed with the knowledge that low back pain is a prevalent affliction with a hefty price tag, a major automotive company has taken a unique approach to alleviate back pain among its employees.

The program is 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.

More than half (55%) of employees who received the intervention eliminated their chronic back pain, compared to 0% of controls at program completion. 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 five percent elimination of chronic back pain in a separate clinical trial with a similar population.

These findings offer a glimmer of hope after a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association 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 program to their employees. The 17,000-employee Henry Ford Health System launched an expanded version of the program in January 2008.

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.

About HAP

Headquartered in Detroit, Health Alliance Plan is a nonprofit health plan serving more than 540,000 members and 2,000 employer groups. HAP is a subsidiary of the Henry Ford Health System and serves companies of all sizes through the flagship HMO, PPOs, Medicare Advantage plans, experience-rated, fully insured and self-funded products, and consumer-driven health plans with compatible health savings accounts. The National Committee for Quality Assurance awarded HAP's commercial HMO and HAP Senior Plus, its Medicare Advantage HMO, Excellent Accreditation.

About Chrysler

Chrysler LLC, headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., produces Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Mopar(R) brand vehicles and products. Its product lineup features some of the world's most recognizable vehicles, including the Chrysler 300, Jeep Wrangler and Dodge Charger. The Company sells and services vehicles in more than 125 countries around the world. The operations outside North America have been experiencing year-over-year sales increases since 2004, with a record number of vehicles sold in 2007. The Chrysler Foundation - - the primary source of charitable grants made by Chrysler -- annually supports hundreds of charitable organizations with an emphasis on community growth and enrichment, education, arts and culture, public policy, youth development and disaster relief programs throughout the United States and, increasingly, the world. Chrysler is a unit of Cerberus Capital Management.

About Henry Ford Medical Group

The Henry Ford Medical Group is one of the nation's largest group practices, with 1,000 physicians and researchers in 40 specialties who staff Henry Ford Hospital and 25 Henry Ford medical centers. Henry Ford's 25 medical centers are located in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties. The Medical Group is a national leader in using e-Prescribing, an innovative electronic computer program that allows physicians to write prescriptions from a personal computer or wireless device and send them directly to a pharmacy. It has improved patient safety, increase generic medication rates, and reduce costs for the patient and health system. E-visits, another unique program, allows patients to communicate with their physician via e-mail.

SOURCE Henry Ford Medical Group
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