Chiropractic and the Opioid Epidemic

78 Americans died per day from drug overdoses from 2000 to 2014.

Nearly half a million people died in those four years and at least half of those deaths were from prescribed drugs. Deaths involving opioids have quadrupled since 1999. In 2017 more than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This is unacceptable and preventable.

Chiropractic is the largest drugless healing profession in the world and has been drugless for its over 120 years. Because of the physical, mental, and toxic stress load we carry, everyone should be checked regularly for subluxation (misalignment). A recent article from Johns Hopkins states that the average American is under more stress in a month than their grandparents in a lifetime. People are more stressed, and more subluxated. It is so obvious that chiropractic care should be part of a healthy lifestyle. A spine should be maintained from birth to prevent distortion and decay.

Pain is a signal from the brain that something is wrong. There are many types and causes of pain. While there are people who do need opioid drugs, those who are dealing with pain after major surgery, from cancer, or are at the end of their life should have what they need to be comfortable. No one disagrees with that. But many people get relief from chronic and acute pain with chiropractic care, without any drugs. With regular chiropractic care you are able to get to the cause of the pain, and by removing the cause, you let the body heal itself.

Beyond the risks of addiction and overdose, 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 overexertion and a delay in the healing process, or even permanent injury. Chiropractic and other conservative (non-drug) approach to pain management can be an important first line of defense against pain and addiction caused by the overuse of prescription opioid pain medications.

In 2017, the American College of Physicians (ACP) updated its guidelines for the treatment of acute and chronic low back pain to recommend first using non-invasive, non-drug treatments before resorting to drug therapies. ACP’s guidelines, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and based on a review of randomized controlled trials and observational studies, cite spinal manipulation (a centerpiece of chiropractic care) as one of possible options for non-invasive, non-drug therapies for low back pain. In March 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines for prescribing opioids that also promote non-pharmacologic alternatives for the treatment of chronic pain. In 2015, the Joint Commission, the organization that accredits more than 20,000 health care systems in the U.S., including every major hospital, recognized the value of non-drug approaches by adding chiropractic to its pain management standard.

The purpose of chiropractic is not to get rid of pain. Chiropractic removes interferences to your nervous system so that your body can do the best job possible to repair and heal you. But adjustments do help people with many types of pain. In the process of adjusting the spine to remove interference to the nervous system, amazing things happen. The vertebrae move as they should. This healthy spinal motion stimulates the brain in many ways. It’s like a windmill in supplying energy, allowing the brain to make the chemicals and hormones it needs for you to be healthy and balanced. Studies show that endorphins are created in higher levels immediately after an adjustment. This is why many people immediately say how much better they feel as soon as they get off the table. The adjustment helps joints move better, and that motion helps circulation and healing of cartilage, discs and all the other components of the joints. Adjustments also help the balance of the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nervous system. Most people are Sympathetic dominant. The Sympathetic nervous system is stimulatory and is activated during fear, anxiety, stress, and when your spine is subluxated. This causes your muscles to be tight, blood flow to be directed to skeletal muscles and heart, and it causes you to have more pain. The Parasympathetic nervous system is healing and calming. It slows the heart rate and dilates blood vessels. When you are in a state of Parasympathetic dominance, you heal and repair better.

By seeking chiropractic care, many can be helped without the need of opioids or pain medications. Can chiropractic help you or someone you know? Schedule a consultation and find out today.

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