Patients Under Chiropractic Care Reduced Opioid Use by 57%
Opioid prescriptions skyrocketed from 112 million in 1992 to nearly 249 million in 2015 even though there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report. Experts refer to this shift as the Opioid Epidemic, and it is expected to be labeled an official national emergency this week. The opioid epidemic claimed the lives of 33,000 people in 2015, with opioid pain-relieving drugs resulting in over 20,000 of those deaths. Serious side effects of opioid use include sedation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, physical dependence, tolerance, and respiratory depression.
Most opioid prescriptions treat a form of muscle or skeletal pain. The CDC reported that although prescription opioids can help manage some types of pain, there is not enough evidence that opioids improve chronic pain, function, and quality of life. Moreover, long-term use of opioid pain relievers for chronic pain can be associated with abuse and overdose. Thus, any treatment or strategy designed to alleviate pain without the use of drugs carries the potential to improve thousands of lives per year. Research has indicated that chiropractic may be a part of that strategy.
A former Dartmouth MD conducted a study that showed patients with back pain who experienced chiropractic care reduced opioid use by 57% compared to patients who did not utilize spinal adjustive care. This minor study consisting of 33,000 patients requires further investigation on a larger scale, but it introduces interesting information that deserves more public attention. Pain reduction, improved movement, and increased function via chiropractic care serve as side effects to the larger process of improving the structure of the spine and function of the nervous system.
Understanding the purpose of chiropractic helps clarify the outcomes of countless scientific studies. Harvard University described chiropractic as, “A health care system that holds that the structure of the body, particularly the spine, affects the function of every part of the body. Chiropractors try to correct the body’s alignment to relieve pain and improve function to help the body heal itself.” This definition describes the unique purpose and benefits that chiropractic delivers, particularly as spinal care relates to helping patients avoid or overcome opioid addictions.
Chiropractic began in 1895 with a mission to help people get and stay well without the use of drugs or surgery. There is no doubt a time and a place for drugs and surgery, but they must be used appropriately since they carry with them inherent risks. Everyone deserves to live comfortably in their own body. Chiropractic aims to provide relief from pain and side effects by pursuing the optimal function of the body in a more natural way.
Research attached to prestigious names like Harvard and Dartmouth provide a strong starting point when educating the public about chiropractic. Chiropractic seeks to correct a problem by getting to the underlying cause. When the cause is addressed, the effects are usually resolved. Pain is an effect. Chiropractic does not seek to treat pain, and instead recognizes it as a “warning sign” of an underlying problem. The philosophy of chiropractic and getting to the cause of a problem drives the application. Research like this helps to show outcomes of a philosophy applied to the improving of a very large and specific cultural problem, and the results that could possibly be achieved if more people understood and experienced the benefits of chiropractic.