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Opioids for Chronic Pain – Should you reach for these powerful drugs for your pain?

The Opioid Crisis: How Did We End Up Here?

Bottom Line:

About 30 years ago, there was a fundamental shift in medicine as to how pain was understood and treated. The number of people with chronic pain seemed to be rising, and it was thought that the options to address the pain weren’t adequate.

Why it Matters:

As doctors paid more attention to assessing pain, they also paid more attention to treating pain. Opioid medication began to be prescribed more often frequently for symptoms such as chronic low back or neck pain.

Up until then, opioids were only prescribed for severe pain after surgery or in advanced-stage cancer. But, in the early 1990s, that all changed. New opioids formulas were promoted as being less addictive, and physicians were encouraged to prescribe these drugs far more liberally than before.

Prescribing these drugs very quickly led to a variety of problems. First, patients rapidly adapted to the drugs, requiring larger and larger doses to achieve the same effect over time. Second, these drugs weren’t very effective at addressing chronic pain. They provided short term relief, but as time went on, they seemed to become less useful for a lot of people. Finally, these drugs provided a euphoric feeling that quickly led to addiction.

  • Starting in the 1990’s, doctors were encouraged to prescribed opioids for chronic pain.
  • It’s estimated that 59% of opioids users report having experienced back pain.
  • In the US alone, there is an average of 130 deaths per day due to opioids.

Next Steps:

Now 30 years later, we are consumed with the opioid crisis. Over 130 people die each day from opioids, and over 40% of those deaths are from prescribed opioids.

If there is a silver lining to this crisis, it’s that we now realize that the answers and treatment of chronic pain is rarely found in a bottle. Many leading healthcare organizations are now recommending non-pharmacological approaches to treatment of chronic pain, including chiropractic.

This month our practice will be focusing on providing you with information on how you can overcome pain without the use of drugs. It’s time to get your life back naturally!

Science Source(s):

Understanding the Epidemic. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018

The Chronic Pain Crisis is the Opioid Crisis

Bottom Line:

What began as a chronic pain epidemic has evolved into our current opioid crisis. For decades, opioids were marketed as a “safer” alternative to treat chronic pain. However, as the number of people with chronic pain began to rise, so did the number of people addicted and dying from prescription opioids.



Why it Matters:

To address our opioid crisis, we will first need to find non-pharmacological solutions to our chronic pain epidemic. Over the past few years, major healthcare agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have recognized that non-pharmacological approaches should be the first line of care for the management of chronic pain.

New studies have indicated that there is a reason to be hopeful. Non-drug care options, such as chiropractic, are very effective at helping people reduce pain. Even people with severe chronic pain have been shown to benefit from the care that chiropractors can provide.

  • Chronic low back pain will affect up to 20% of people over 18 years old.
  • Cooperation between your Medical Doctor and Chiropractor can help provide the best results.
  • Chiropractic care has been shown to provide better outcomes than care in a pain clinic.

Next Steps:

This change to a primarily non-pharmacological based approach to care for chronic pain is unprecedented in healthcare. Yes, there will always be certain circumstances where powerful medications may need to be used, but most pain patients don’t fall into this category.

We can’t undo the damage that has been done, but we can learn from the past and work together to overcome chronic pain. The research continues to show that chiropractic care is both safe and effective for treating your pain without any of the dangerous side effects associated with opioid medications.

Science Source(s):

Prevalence of chronic low back pain: a systematic review. Rev Saude Publica. 2015

A Comparison Between Chiropractic Management and Pain Clinic Management for Chronic Low-Back Pain in a National Health Service Outpatient Clinic. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Volume 14, Number 5, 2008

Opiates vs. Opioids: What’s the Difference?

Bottom Line:

If you haven’t heard about the problems that opioids have caused over the past decade, you must be living under a rock! Did you know that many of the people dying from opioids aren’t recreational drug users looking for the next high? In fact, they are people who were prescribed these drugs by their doctors for the treatment of chronic pain.


Why it Matters:

To understand how this epidemic started, it’s essential to understand the differences between opioids and opiates.

Opiates are drugs derived from the flowering opium poppy plant. Morphine is an example of an opiate. These drugs have been linked to physical dependency, high tolerance, and addiction.

Opioids on the other hand are synthetic (or made in a lab). When opioid receptors in the brain become activated, they produce feelings of pleasure and pain. All opioid drugs act on these receptors. Some are up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, some of the most commonly prescribed being oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Oxycodone exhibits the highest risk of abuse and poses the most significant dangers. It affects the nervous system in the same way as heroin, underscoring how highly addictive and dangerous these drugs are.

  • Opioids can have a negative impact on your emotions, breathing, digestion, and movement.
  • Fentanyl, a pain-relieving opioid, is 100 times more potent than the opiate morphine.
  • Opioids are highly addictive and not meant to be used for chronic pain.

Next Steps:

Next week, we’ll be highlighting how you can go “beyond the pill,” and we’ll discuss a variety of non-pharmacological options that are very effective at treating pain.

Science Source(s):

Association Between Utilization of Chiropractic Services for Treatment of Low Back Pain and Risk of Adverse Drug Events. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2018

CDC. The Opioid Epidemic. 2020

Beyond the Pill: Non-Opioid Care for Chronic Pain

Bottom Line:

One of the problems with pain medications is that they only treat the symptoms. In fact, they aren’t doing a thing to resolve the source of your pain. And if you are looking for a long-term solution for pain relief, you need to address the root cause.

If you’re dealing with chronic pain, now is the time to tackle it naturally. But how do you deal with chronic pain without the use of opioid pain medications? Keep reading…

Why It Matters:

We’ve have found a lot of success with a plan that typically encourages:

  1. Whole Body Movement with Daily Exercise: it may seem impossible to get out and get active when you’re dealing with chronic pain, but it may help you see some relief from your symptoms! For example, if you’re dealing with chronic back pain, regular walks can help relieve the stiffness and soreness that comes with back pain.
  1. Specific Spinal Joint Movement with Chiropractic Adjustments: Chiropractors are an excellent resource for anyone who is dealing with chronic pain. New research has shown chiropractic care as effective at relieving pain as many medications without the associated risks. What’s more, the likelihood of filling an opioid prescription is reduced by over 50% for people who see a chiropractor.

Next Steps:

You don’t need to keep struggling with chronic pain. Researchers have found that chiropractic care and active exercise can be very effective at reducing your symptoms and addressing the cause.

If you or someone you know has struggled with chronic pain, please reach out to our practice today so that we can help provide you with options for relief that don’t include the dangerous medications like those that have created the current opioid epidemic.

Science Source(s):

Association Between Utilization of Chiropractic Services for Treatment of Low Back Pain and Risk of Adverse Drug Events. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2018
Impact of Chiropractic Care on Use of Prescription Opioids in Patients with Spinal Pain. Pain Med 2020