Chiropractic Care- A Safer Approach
Stemming the tide of opioid addiction by integrating non-pharmacological treatments into pain management plans.
Sometimes patients who are new to chiropractic ask me if I can prescribe something for their pain. Perhaps they are unable to sleep or work due to pain, and Advil or Tylenol aren’t providing any relief. I tell them that no, I cannot prescribe drugs- that is outside the scope of practice for Chiropractors. And more importantly, I don’t want to. That is why I became a Doctor of Chiropractic. I value natural, non-drug healthcare that considers the whole person (“holistic”) and respects the innate healing capacity of the human body. And I know that the scientific evidence supports chiropractic care as not only safer but more effective and less costly than drug-based treatment for most neuromusculoskeletal conditions, especially chronic pain.
That is why I am so pleased to announce that the California Chiropractic Association (CalChiro) is sponsoring legislation to encourage the use of non-drug approaches to pain-management in an effort to stem the tide of the current opioid epidemic. In their press release, CalChiro states that it “is pleased to sponsor AB 888, which seeks to reduce the over-reliance on prescription opioids by integrating non-pharmacological treatments to pain-management care plans and, most importantly, ensures that patients are making well informed decisions before an opioid is prescribed.”
It is difficult to grasp the magnitude of the opioid epidemic in the United States. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that more than 200,000 people died in the US from overdoses related to prescription drugs between 1999 and 2016. And that overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999. Did you catch that? - ”overdoses related to prescription drugs” - drugs prescribed for chronic pain despite known risks of addiction and dependence and lack of evidence of their long-term effectiveness.
There is a better way. “We have always aimed to alleviate pain and suffering without deadly, addictive medications, states Danny Gambino, DC, President of the California Chiropractic Association. “In fact, studies have shown a 55% reduction in opioid prescriptions if a doctor of chiropractic is sought out first.” The Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes this and has been successfully implementing nonpharmacologic therapies, among them, spinal manipulation (chiropractic), massage, acupuncture, exercise and patient education. In fact, from 2012 to 2016 the number of veterans receiving an opioid for any reason decreased approximately 25%, in part due to expanding access to nonpharmacological treatment options. I am honored to be a provider of chiropractic care to veterans through the VA’s Community Care program.
After suffering multiple forearm fractures in a bicycling accident last August, I was grateful for surgery, a cast and hydrocodone (an opioid medication). But I stopped taking the hydrocodone after 3 days. I was able to manage my pain by transitioning to Tylenol and then to a homeopathic remedy, while continuing to rest, elevate my arm and use ice. And I knew enough about the side effects and risks of opioid medications to not want to take it any longer than absolutely necessary.
It is time for a better approach. Patients deserve to know about the dangers of opioids before ever filling a prescription. AB 888 will require a full informed consent before any initial opioid prescription and will encourage a multidisciplinary approach to incorporate evidence-based treatment options, such as chiropractic care, to prevent opioid addiction from occurring in the first place.