Opioids, Back Pain, and Chiropractic

Chronic pain is real, and affects many people. It is also multifactorial in nature, and can be challenging to manage. In response, opioids have become a first line pharmaceutical measure to help in the treatment of chronic pain.

Musculoskeletal pains, including back pain, represent the leading conditions for which opioids are prescribed. Unfortunately, opioids have proven themselves to be a less effective, and more risky treatment option than what they were first considered.

The Opioid Crisis

While opioids can be effective in helping to manage some types of pain, they are also addictive. And unfortunately it is this addictive quality that can lead to overdose. In fact, in the United States, opioids are now the leading cause of unintended death by overdose at over 19,000 in 2014 – more than cocaine and heroin combined. And north of the border, in Canada, over 2,400 people died in 2016 of opioid related overdoses.

A Collaborative Approach to Managing the Opioid Crisis

In May of 2017 the National Pain Centre at McMaster University released the Canadian Guideline for Opioids for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain. Among the many treatment recommendations there are two that particularly stand out: Recommendation 1 – when considering therapy for patients with chronic non-cancer pain, who are not yet taking opioids, and Recommendation 10 – for patients with chronic non-cancer pain who are using opioids and experiencing serious challenges in tapering.

Both recommendations support the use of a multimodal approach in managing patients with chronic pain. Among the approaches suggested are the use of chiropractic care and spinal manipulative therapy.

Chiropractors are well poised as musculoskeletal experts in the the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of pain arising from the muscles, joints, and nervous system. Research demonstrates that chiropractic care, and spinal manipulative therapy are effective treatment options for back pain and other musculoskeletal aches and pains. Considering that pain can be challenging and complex in nature, all effective treatment options, including chiropractic care should be available to those suffering with chronic pain.

For a more in-depth view of chronic pain, the opioid crisis, and the role chiropractic can play, please see the white paper provided by the Canadian Chiropractic Association A Better Approach to Pain Management: Responding to Canada’s Opioid Crisis

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