By Dr. Joseph Iaccino
In the late 1990s, medical providers all over the country believed the pharmaceutical companies when they promised that opioid pain relievers were non-addictive wonder drugs. Unfortunately, that promise wasn’t true. By 2017, U.S. Health and Human Services had declared opioid addiction a national public health crisis. Today, we continue to face an opioid epidemic that destroys people’s health and happiness.
So, how do people get started with opioids–and is there a way to stop the addiction before it starts?
Generally, opioids are prescribed for pain. Anyone living with pain–especially chronic pain–will tell you that, at times, they would do almost anything to get some relief. These people come from all walks of life, all ethnicities, socio-economic statuses, and ages.
When people are desperate for pain relief, they do things they never would have expected of themselves, and in many cases leads to addiction.
This is why I was so excited when I came across a study that reinforced what I’ve seen in my own chiropractic practice. In 2019, researchers published results from a five-year study in the British Medical Journal showing that patients with low back pain who received initial treatment from chiropractors (or physical therapists) decreased the odds of short-term and long-term opioid use by up to 95%.
That is a huge percentage! This highlights how early chiropractic intervention could greatly reduce the need for opioids.
Many people may have doubts or fears of chiropractic care, due to the rising popularity of social media videos showing aggressive manipulation with added sound effects to make excessively loud popping and cracking noises.
Chiropractic care has made many advances in the last several decades and has gained wider acceptance with many chiropractors working alongside healthcare professionals to improve the overall health of our patients.
Chiropractic care focuses on making sure the spine can move properly. In today’s world, many people sit all day, which is not how the human body was intended to function. This can lead to back pain. There is also an increase in cell phone use leading to poor neck posture and causing what has been called “text neck.”
Usually, when we experience pain, nerves send a signal to alert the brain, which then sends a signal back to the affected region on how the body should respond. If the pain messages don’t stop, the brain begins to ignore it and prioritize other vital functions.
This initiates a negative feedback loop that restricts motion, which leads to further joint mobility issues. Chiropractic care can interrupt this loop and reset things, allowing muscles to relax and the brain to re-engage.
Generally, chiropractors treat neck pain (and associated headaches) and low back pain, including sciatica. The majority of the time, I use an instrument that measures a joint’s mobility in real-time so that only the appropriate amount of force required is applied. Once the joint is moving as it should, the instrument shuts off automatically. I also do manual therapy and soft tissue work when necessary. I also use soft-tissue therapy tools calibrated for safety and effectiveness.
When a patient is ready, I prescribe home exercises for core strength and often recommend dietary changes for better nutrition and reduced inflammation.
If you are experiencing neck or low back pain, consider asking your primary care provider for a referral to a chiropractor. In a world where medication is sometimes the default answer to pain, it’s nice to have an effective, non-invasive alternative.
Joe Iaccino is a chiropractor at MCHC Health Centers—a local, non-profit, federally qualified health center offering medical, dental, and behavioral health care to people in Lake and Mendocino Counties.