Can Chiropractic Help The Opioid Crisis?

An estimated 25 million Americans live with chronic pain. In the U.S. millions of Americans rely on pain medication. Hundreds of thousands of opioid prescriptions are dispensed everyday in the U.S..

Many states have started recommending patients seek out a drug free pain relief option, one of those being chiropractic. There have been many studies showing the benefits of chiropractic as a cost-effective approach to musculoskeletal pain. In 2016 the Lancet published a paper that showed chiropractic care has been proven in scientific literature to be effective treatment for neck and low back pain.

In another 2016 study, Association between Utilization of Chiropractic Services and Use of Prescription Opioids Among Patients with Low Back Pain, found a 55 percent reduction in the likelihood of people filling prescriptions for opioids in those who received chiropractic care as compared to those who did not. 1

This year Medscape Medical News has reported on research out of the Yale School of Medicine revealing that “patients who visited a chiropractor for a musculoskeletal pain condition were 49 percent less likely to receive an opioid prescription than their counterparts who went to other healthcare providers.”2

“Preventing opioid addiction and overdose continues to be a significant public health priority; and as part of a strategy to lessen opioid use, clinical guidelines now recommend many non-pharmacological options to be considered as front-line treatment ahead of any medication,” lead author Kelsey L. Corcoran, DC, VA Connecticut Health Care System and Yale Center for Medical Informatics, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, told Medscape Medical News. “Chiropractors provide many of the treatments included in the clinical guidelines for the initial treatment of low back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis of the hip, knee, and hand.”

In January, The Trump administration released a policy to encourage private Medicare Advantage plans to cover non-opioid pain treatment recommended by a doctor. Congress also passed opioid legislation directing the Department of Health and Human Services to review its payment policies so that doctors are not encouraged to prescribe opioids over a conservative option.

One study also found that chiropractic care was associated with a reduction in just over a quarter million visits to a primary care doctor nationally, at a cost of $83.5 million. They found that chiropractic care reduced the number of visits to a primary care doctor for back and neck pain among adults. 3

In a recent study published by Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research Investigators found that patients who received chiropractic care integrated with usual medical care had:

  • better short-term improvements in low-back pain intensity and pain-related disability compared to patients who received usual medical care along.
  • decreased low-back pain intensity compared to patients who received usual medical care along.
  • decreased their use of pain medication compared to patients who received usual medical care along.
  • had greater perceived improvement for low back pain than UMC alone.

The study was released in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s online JAMA Network Open. The study was the largest randomized clinical trial in chiropractic research in the U.S. to date. It involved 750 active-duty U.S. military personnel at three sites across the country. 4

I know first hand chiropractic can be the drug free alternative for pain relief. It saved me when I was 10 years old and the only option given was pain medication anytime I was active. Chiropractic gave me an alternative to live a pain free life without the use of medication and I know it can do the same for others.


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