The opioid crisis is in the news constantly. I have several posts here which discuss what is considered the unofficial genesis of the problem as well as the various lawsuits and other news. A study I missed earlier this year revealed that chiropractic care is helping to reduce opioid prescriptions. This was a study presented at the American Academy of Pain Medicine 2019 Annual Meeting. I do not have access to this abstract, nor will this link go directly to it. I read about this study in a health industry news website.
In a new review of the research, patients who visited a chiropractor for a musculoskeletal (MSK) pain condition were 49% less likely to receive an opioid prescription than MSK pain patients who went to other healthcare providers. After reviewing all of the available literature on chiropractic use and opioid prescribing, the researchers selected six studies with a total of 62,000 patients to include in the current analysis. The proportion of patients receiving an opioid prescription was lower for chiropractic patients compared with non-chiropractic patients. Chiropractic patients were also less likely to receive an opioid prescription.
So some people are going to say, well chiropractors cannot prescribe medications so of course chiropractic patients are not going to get a prescription for an opiod from their chiropractor. This is all true. What is also true is that chiropractors are not always the only doctor a patient sees for their pain. We also refer our difficult cases to pain specialists when we know we need a little help with getting the patient well. Sometimes that pain specialist performs a steroid injection and sometimes they just prescribe a medication. So it is not a 100% sure thing that seeing a chiropractor means a patients won’t or doesn’t already have a prescription pain medication.
What this study says to me is that for MSK pain, especially spine pain, the first person a patient should be instructed to see is a chiropractor. We have the ability to diagnose and treat MSK conditions. We do it well enough that many patients don’t require any additional care, including prescription pain medications. We can work with other specializes, when necessary, for the patients benefit. By seeing a chiropractor first, you reduce your risk for being treated with needless drugs and can avoid surgery in many instances. Seeing a chiropractor is also good for our healthcare system. The costs involved with chiropractic care pale to the costs of being treated in the traditional medical system.