Chiropractic care has been in the recent news discusses how Ohio legislators are pushing for chiropractic in an effort to save others from the opioid crisis.
Among the daily, frightening reports on our nation’s opioid drug crisis that flood our news outlets (2 million Americans struggle with opioid abuse! 115 die of opioid overdoses every day! Over 200 million opioid prescriptions written each year!), a beacon of hope emerges: “Ohio Lawmakers, Doctors Suggest Chiropractic Care Instead of Opioids”. Legislators, medical doctors, and Chiropractic doctors are coming together to recommend a public health strategy of Chiropractic care to address the underlying dysfunction in the body that is connected to patients’ chronic pain before resorting to powerfully addictive prescription drugs.
What does Chiropractic have to do with the opioid crisis?
Great question. A very important point to make here is the following: Chiropractic is not a cure for pain. A person’s perception of pain is multi-factorial and complex including unique history, lifestyle with stressors that are physical, mental/emotional, nutritional/chemical (including pharmaceutical), etc. Typically, there is more than one chronic reasons why the pain is existing neurologically. In fact, the only goal of Chiropractic…ever…has been to increase expression of health by improving brain-body connection. Not to reduce or hide pain.
Have individuals under care noticed positive changes with their pain levels? Of course. It is a beautiful side effect of getting the body to work better through the brain-body connection. Inflammation levels tend to improve and the body can internally heal better as it is naturally intended. As a result, many people have noticed either reduced need or total elimination of either prescription or over-the-counter drugs as supervised through their medical doctor.
Even though Chiropractic is not seen as a cure for pain, there is great research showing how Research has proven one of the beautiful effects of Chiropractic on the body is improved perception of pain. A recent study by James Whedon, DC, MS, director of health services research at Southern California University of Health Sciences reveals Chiropractic as a promising approach to addressing the opioid crisis. In the study “Association Between Utilization of Chiropractic Services and Use of Prescription Opioids Among Patients with Low Back Pain”, Dr. Whedon discovered that patients who received Chiropractic care were 55% less likely to fill their prescriptions for opioids than patients who did not have Chiropractic care. He also found that charges for medical office visits for low back pain were 78% lower and charges for filling opioid prescriptions were 74% lower for patients who received Chiropractic care versus those who did not- suggesting that Chiropractic patients required less medical office visits and that Chiropractic patients who did take opioids used less medication.
Again, how does Chiropractic create a benefit to reduce or eliminate the need for pain medication? First, understand that pain is a symptom. Opioid drugs do not heal the disease or injury that is causing the pain, they only relieve the symptom. These drugs bind to receptors in the brain and spinal cord, disrupting pain signals and increasing levels of the feel-good hormone dopamine in the brain’s reward areas, producing an intense feeling of euphoria. As the brain becomes used to this action, it often takes more and more of the drug to produce the same levels of pain relief and feelings of well-being, leading to dependence and, later, addiction. Patients are left with the root cause of their pain unaddressed, and now have additional problems from drug dependence or addiction, creating a lose-lose situation.
Chiropractic care addresses not the symptoms but the root cause of dysfunction within the body by promoting optimal function of the nervous system, the master system that connects the brain to the rest of the body and controls and directs all functions of the body. Chiropractors identify and correct problems or points of interference in the spine with the goal of restoring optimal function to the nervous system which promotes optimal function and vitality of the whole body and the body’s innate ability to adapt and heal itself. (The important key here is not finding a way to “turn off” pain and mask symptoms, but to enhance expression of adaptability and healing through the nervous system.) When the root cause of dysfunction is addressed and the body is able to heal, the body’s ability to express health and adaptability improves. People will often experience a decreased dependence on medications- a win-win situation for sure!
Chiropractors and their patients have known about these benefits since the beginning, and now it is exciting to see lawmakers and public health advocates pushing for Chiropractic as an evidence-based solution in this huge opioid crisis. Even if you are not a Chiropractor, you can help your friends and family struggling with chronic conditions and opioid use get the care they need by sharing this article or talking with them about your experience of improved function and vitality with Chiropractic- you may save a life!