Chiropractic: Drug-Free Pain Management
Written by Editor   
Saturday, November 12, 2016 12:00 AM

News Bite:  The public needs to be reminded that there are drug-free approaches such as chiropractic that, if tried first, may reduce or eliminate the need for pain medications.  

Chiropractic is an important first line of defense against musculoskeletal pain. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, chiropractors care for patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Up to 87% of all insured are covered for chiropractic care, and Section 2706 of the Affordable Care Act ensures that DCs are covered providers for allowable services within their scope of practice. 


As government officials attempt to tackle the opioid epidemic, associations advocating for nonpharmacologic approaches to pain management are launching their own campaigns to inform the general public of alternatives to prescription painkillers.  “The opioid epidemic may now be front and center as a healthcare priority in this country, but it’s far from over,” said Robert Hayden, DC, PhD, a member of the American Chiropractic Association’s (ACA) media team. “While efforts are being made to curb opioid prescriptions and develop less addictive drugs, the public needs to be reminded that there are drug-free approaches such as chiropractic that, if tried first, may alleviate their pain and lessen or even eliminate the need for over-the-counter and prescription pain medications.”

There were 18,893 deaths involving prescription opioids in the country in 2014, up 16% from 2013. Deaths involving drugs like fentanyl and tramadol increased by 79% from 2013 to 2014.  Part of the ACA’s efforts is educating the public about drug-free approaches to pain management. Besides chiropractic, alternatives include acupuncture, psychotherapy and physical therapy. “We are trying to plant that seed in their minds and hope that it will still be there when they find themselves in pain and have to make a decision about their care,” he said. “If they know they have options, they are more likely to ask about them. Everyone is different, but there are patients who will respond well to chiropractic and other conservative treatments,” Hayden said. “Healthcare providers need to do a better job of identifying them, and patients themselves need to ask about drug-free options before beginning prescription drug therapy.”

Chiropractic services and other conservative forms of care are an important first line of defense against musculoskeletal pain and may, in some cases, lessen or eliminate the need for over-the-counter and prescription painkillers.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, chiropractors care for patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons. They use spinal adjustments and manipulation and other techniques to manage patients' health concerns, such as back and neck pain.

A chiropractor's typical session with a patient includes:

  • Assessment of a patient's health condition, including a review of his or her medical history, listening to the patient's concerns and performing a physical examination.
  • Analysis of a patient’s posture, spine, funcational ability and reflexes.
  • Testing, including diagnostic imaging or other special tests.
  • Neuromusculoskeletal therapy, which involves adjusting a patient's spinal column and other joints.
  • Physical medicine, such as applying heat or cold to a patient’s injured areas.  
  • They also may apply supports, such as braces or shoe inserts, to treat patients and relieve pain.
  • Advice on a patient’s health and lifestyle issues, such as exercise, nutrition and sleep habits.
  • A reference to other health-care professionals, if needed.

Chiropractors often concentrate in areas such as sports, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics or nutrition, among others.

Education and certification: According to the Department of Labor, chiropractors must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree and a state license. Doctor of Chiropractic programs typically take four years to complete and require at least three years of undergraduate college education for admission.

All states and the District of Columbia require chiropractors to be licensed. Although specific requirements vary by state, all jurisdictions require the completion of an accredited Doctor of Chiropractic program. Some states require chiropractors to have a bachelor’s degree.  In addition, all jurisdictions require passing the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners exam, and some also require applicants to pass state-specific exams.

Often it’s said that healthcare companies don’t cover chiropractic services for those in pain, but according to research findings up to 87% of all insured American employees are covered for chiropractic care. If patients aren’t covered, they “should urge their healthcare insurance provider to include them,” Hayden said.

In addition, Section 2706 of the Affordable Care Act comes into play as far as ensuring that DCs are covered providers for allowable services within their scope of practice. The law is an important tool that patients can use to advocate for their preferred form of treatment. Patients who are covered by an employee-sponsored plan can also reach out to their HR department and ask that chiropractic services be included in the benefit package.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/cjarlotta/2016/07/26/american-chiropractic-association-promotes-nonpharmacologic-pain-management-via-new-campaign/