Opioid Crisis – The Chiropractic Contribution To The Solution

no pillsOn September 9th, 2015, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed a proclamation that the month of October should be deemed National Chiropractic Health Month.  The following points were included in this proclamation: (see below)

Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) are physician-level providers who focus on the whole person in their conservative approach to health care. They have particular expertise in the prevention, care, and rehabilitation of neuromusculoskeletal injuries and conditions.

  • Doctors of Chiropractic are educated in nationally accredited, four-year doctoral graduate school programs through a curriculum that includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical internship, with the average DC program equivalent in classroom hours to Allopathic and Osteopathic medical schools.
  • According to a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2011, an estimated 100 million Americans are affected by chronic pain, with an estimated annual cost of $560-$635 billion. It is estimated that $50 billion is spent annually on health care and expenses related to back pain.
  • With an increase in chronic pain, there has been a simultaneous rise in opioid use, which has been associated with adverse outcomes (e.g. addiction, overdose, and insufficient pain relief). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified the overuse and abuse of prescription pain medications in the United States as “epidemic.”
  • Prescription drugs that numb pain may convince a patient that a musculoskeletal condition is less severe than it is, or that it has healed. This misunderstanding can lead to over-exertion and a delay in the healing process, or even to permanent injury.
  • National Chiropractic Health Month 2015 serves as a reminder to all North Carolinians that they can participate in #PainFreeNation, and highlights the important role Doctors of Chiropractic perform in the health care delivery system.

Chiropractic is on the front line in the treatment, reduction and prevention of this Opioid crisis.In the FQHC setting, as much as it has been slow to accept the placement of Chiropractors in community health centers, several avant-guard FQHC leaders saw the value of implementing a chiropractic department and have been on the front line. This has been instrumental in helping to reduce the amount of patients placed on Opioids for chronic pain relief by addressing pain conditions while still in the early stages; preventing the cascading pathway that brings a patient to the brink of addictions during pain management by the medication approach only.

chiro-med-smlThe benefits of chiropractic care do not begin and end with lowering the amount of narcotic drugs prescribed to patients.  When patients regain range of motion and activity levels not previously reached due to injury and/or illness, overall health improves, too.  Relieving pain also leads to patients being able to exercise again, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels as a result. Center on health promotion Vs pain management.

Benefits can also be seen in mental health.  Pain is not only distracting, it can disrupt social life and the ability to run errands, perform daily chores, or be productive in the workplace.  The emotional toll pain takes on patients is harder to identify in statistics, but can be seen both in the worsening of pain and the relief when pain is gone or lessened. One of the primary benefits of chiropractic in mental health is the reduction in total medications taken.

Community Health Centers provide primary care, pediatrics, dental, mental health, nutrition, care of chronic conditions and even provide optometry and podiatry. It makes sense to have chiropractic available to patients for neuromusculoskeletal health and as the front line in the prevention of pain medication abuses.

By Michel Tetrault, DC and Lori-Anne Vogel