Can receiving spinal adjustments make a person healthier? If so, how would you measure it?
Treating patients with chronic, long-term disabling back pain is truly a challenge. A commonly utilized medical approach to treating these patients (after the initial less invasive course of treatment has failed) is the use of opioid pain relievers (OPR). Opioid pain relievers are commonly used when treating patients who experience long-term pain. This group of medications includes oxycodone, methadone, hydrocodone, and others. Guidelines published on the treatment of chronic low back pain are clear: ALL other less dangerous approaches should be used first (and for obvious reasons). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that in 2007, nearly 100 people died DAILY from drug overdoses in the United States, with most caused by prescription medications. This is three times more than the rate calculated in 1991! Also, there was a 98.4% increase in Emergency Room (ER) visits between 2004 and 2009, or 1.2 million more ER visits, related to misuse or abuse of pharmaceuticals. Surprisingly, this figure is HIGHER than ER visits associated with the use of illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine.
So, what does this have to do with chiropractic? Actually, a lot! Organized medicine and insurers are starting to take a serious look at alternative approaches, especially those that have the highest patient/client satisfaction, of which CHIROPRACTIC leads the list! Chiropractic patients are generally healthier than those who do not utilize such care. Hence, chiropractic is strongly considered as a possible solution to this “epidemic” of OPR over-utilization. The emphasis here is in PREVENTING chronic back pain patients from starting on the opioid roller coaster.
The State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Family Medical Practice has set up clinical rotations through a chiropractic service for family medical residents. Also, course work teaching the principles of chiropractic is in place within the medical school curriculum. A research project is currently ongoing to determine the benefits of co-managing patients between family practice physicians and chiropractors with an emphasis on chronic low back pain as well as improving function and mobility as solutions for cardiac and diabetic patients. The primary goal of educating the medical students is to offer chiropractic care as an acceptable and proven “first-line” choice of referral as a possible solution to the opioid epidemic.
One study reported statistics that show patients with work-related, non-specific low back pain had higher disability recurrence when treated by physician services or physical therapy than when these patients utilized chiropractic services. The study also found that when a similar patient group was treated by chiropractors, they had lower pain severity and fewer used opioids or had surgery. Additionally, these patients had, on average, fewer expensive medical services and shorter initial periods of disability than cases treated by other provider types. Another study compared 1.7 million insured patients treated for back pain by various provider types and concluded, “…The outcomes showed that when chiropractic care was pursued, the cost of treatment was reduced by 28%, hospitalizations were reduced by 41%, back surgery was reduced by 32%, and the cost of medical imaging, including x-ray and MRIs, was reduced by 37%.” Another study reported the need to reduce opioid use supports the need for change in how back pain patient are treated. The authors of this study reported, “…[we] rate chiropractic as one of the most promising, with the highest acceptance by physician groups and the best evidence to support its use.”
So as can see, it’s no longer a question IF chiropractic makes you healthier, chiropractic DOES make you healthier!