Are Opioid Drugs the Best Way to Manage your Pain?

America is facing an opioid epidemic. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “opioids are medications that relieve pain. They reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus. Medications that fall within this class include hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), morphine (e.g., Kadian, Avinza), codeine, and related drugs.”

These drugs are very effective at masking the pain and convincing our brains that everything is okay. However, merely masking the symptoms does not mean the underlying cause of pain has been treated. Unfortunately, opioid drugs are extremely addictive and come with a slew of side effects, including sedation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, physical dependence, tolerance, and respiratory depression.

In a randomized control study, Cross-Sectional Analysis of Per Capita Supply of Doctors of Chiropractic and Opioid Use in Younger Medicare Beneficiaries by Weeks and Goertz, the correlation between pain management using chiropractic care versus opioid medications was examined.

While this study did not examine whether chiropractic treatment was more effective in pain management versus opioid medications, it did show a strong inverse correlation between access to chiropractic care and the use of opioids. In other words, the more access a patient in pain had to see a chiropractor, the less likely they were to seek opioid medication for pain management.

According to the study, “preliminary findings suggest that America’s opioid epidemic might be reduced should Medicare consider a clinical trial of chiropractic spinal manipulation prior to conventional medical care for patients with neck or back pain.”

 

Chiropractic adjustments focus on correcting the underlying cause of nerve pain—the misalignment of bones that are putting pressure on nerves causing interference in the body. While opioid medications focus on masking the pain and “tricking” your brain into thinking the problem is resolved, the chiropractic adjustment actually targets the root cause of pain and provides lasting results.

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