Pain. It can be caused by anything from sleeping wrong or the death of a loved one and everything in between. When people speak of physical agony, their first thought is often to go to the medicine cabinet. Why suffer when a couple of pills and a quick swallow can ease the distress? But what about more serious pain? Severe pain? Chronic pain? When individuals are dealing with discomfort on a daily basis or when it becomes so severe that a little Tylenol or Motrin won’t cut it, what then? When pain becomes chronic, individuals face a different challenge. For some, the answer is simple: bigger discomfort needs bigger medication, but in fact stronger pain killers are often the worst way to deal with severe pain. What many people don’t know is that chiropractic care is often the best strategy for dealing with severe or chronic pain.
What is chronic pain?
Take a look at dictionary.com for the definition of chronic and you’ll find this: continuing a long time or recurring frequently. Simple. But soreness that continues a long time or recurs frequently is anything but simple. Chronic pain can come from a number of conditions.
One such condition is Fibromyalgia, which disrupts the nervous system in the human body. Another big culprit of chronic pain is back pain. These may be the most common sources for common pain, but they aren’t alone. Other conditions can cause or aggravate chronic pain including TMJ/TMD, endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, migraines, tension headaches, vulvodynia/prostatitis, IBS, Gulf War Illness, multiple chemical sensitivity, and ME/CFS.
The CDC recently released a report stating 50 million Americans, 20% of the adult population, suffers from chronic pain. But our past efforts in addressing this situation have landed us in an even more serious situation – the prescription of and consequent addiction to prescription opioids.
What’s wrong with opioids?
When many hear the word opioid, their minds go immediately to street drugs such as heroine. They imagine illicit drug labs in abandoned buildings and addicts stirring bathtubs full of “dirty” drugs. These travesties do happen, and people’s lives are ruined every day.
But there is also a “cleaner” more accepted drug problem in the United States – prescription opioids. The most common are hydrocodone (Vicodin®), oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®), oxymorphone (Opana®), morphine (Kadian®, Avinza®), codeine, and fentanyl.
These drugs are just as addictive as those with the negative reputations, and they account for twice as many deaths by overdose as illegal opioids do.
How did prescription opioids become such a problem?
First, doctors have over prescribed these drugs or have prescribed them incorrectly. Seventy percent of doctors treating patients for back pain prescribe opioids. They often prescribe them for too long a period as well, and they are often the first line of treatment though there are other more effective ways of treating pain as we will see shortly. The CDC recommends prescriptions for highly addictive opioid drugs be limited to three days. Twenty three percent of doctors admit to writing their prescriptions to last at least a month
Hospitals bear some of the burden for the opioid addiction epidemic as well. They have learned from their ways, however, and are recently moving away from treating ER patients with drugs and toward a more integrative approach.
Even drug companies have helped create the addiction dynamic. Some manufactures target advertisement to physicians who over prescribe opioids and lure in patients with vouchers for free drugs. Legal actions have been taken against some drug companies because of their actions.
Need more proof that opioids are a problem? Since 1999 sales of prescription opioids have increased fourfold as have overdose deaths associated with them.
A better choice
Some might argue that the risks are worth the benefits when it comes to using opioids for chronic pain. They might be surprised to hear, then, that not only are opioids dangerous when it comes to addiction, but opioids are not effective in treating lower back pain.
The United Press International reports, “Although the drugs can have some short-term effects, opioid-based painkillers such as Oxycodone and Percocet have largely minimal effects on chronic lower back pain unrelated to other injuries, according to the latest research from the George Institute in Australia. Researchers found in a review of studies that the drugs do not always work for patients, and many participants in studies drop out because any benefits are outweighed by side effects”
Patients who take opioids for chronic pain risk addiction to the drug, manipulation by the drug companies, and lack of effective care. The worst part is that chiropractic care can offer a solution to their discomfort without all the dangers of opioid use.
Why turn to chiropractic care?
Experts recommend chiropractic care: the ACP (American College of Physicians) recommends non-drug, noninvasive intervention for treatment of lower back pain as first measure before drug therapies, and much of chiropractic care falls into this category. In addition, the FDA stresses the value of chiropractic care as a part of a multidisciplinary pain management program. The National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association promotes integrative health-care and recognizes the importance of spinal health. They recommend chiropractic care for non-pharmacological pain treatment.
Chiropractic helps with a number of pain causing conditions: Chiropractic care isn’t just for the spine. Low back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis of the hip, knee, and hand are all conditions that can be improved at the chiropractor’s office.
It’s not just manipulation: Many people have too limited a view as to what chiropractic care involves. Chiropractic intervention often includes massage and therapeutic exercise instruction as well.
It’s safer: Patients using chiropractic care are 49% less likely to be prescribed opioids for management of back pain according to the Yale School of Medicine.
A better and safer future
The war against drugs may or may not have found its way into your living room, but if it hasn’t already, don’t open the door and welcome it in. If you or someone you know suffers from chronic discomfort, chiropractic care may be the answer. It’s benefits far outweigh the risks associated with opioid use, and some may be surprised at how much good the right chiropractic care can do. If you are interested in learning more or if you are ready to act on what you have learned, call our office to set up a consultation or make an appointment and look forward to a pain free, drug free future.