Saint Louis

What if Chiropractors Had NNT Scores?

What would you say if I told you that before chiropractic adjustments could help just one person with headaches, 500 other headache sufferers would need to be adjusted? If that were an actual statistic it would have an “NNT score” of 500.

The “Number Needed to Treat” score is a hush-hush medical statistic that reveals how many people have to take a prescription drug before one of them benefits from it.

If chiropractors were given NNT scores and an average of 500 people had to get adjusted before ONE saw relief, I can promise you that the chiropractic profession would cease to exist!

Highly advertised cholesterol-lowering medications like Lipitor have NNT scores ranging from 16-500! It’s a bit frightening to hear, but Dr. Nortin M. Hadler, professor of medicine at the UNC, admits: “Anything over an NNT of 50 is worse than a lottery ticket; there may be no winners.”

This chart puts NNT scores into an interesting perspective:


It shouldn’t come as a surprise when I tell you that pharmaceutical companies tend to keep this number quiet and focus on broader statistics… But it’s your right as a health care consumer to be informed.

So my advice for you today is this… When someone wants you to take a prescription medication, politely ask them what the drug’s NNT score is…

Then, in the immortal words of Hollywood’s Dirty Harry, you can ask yourself: “Do I feel lucky?”