When pain medications are not the answer

When pain medications are not the answer

When discussing pain medication alternatives with patients I often think of Peter. Peter first came to see me in his early thirties. He worked as a mechanic, and his first child was on the way. Peter was struggling with unrelenting low back pain. Tylenol wasn’t helping, Advil didn’t do the trick, and more conservative efforts like walking and stretching helped but not enough. As our conversation progressed, I realized that Peter had a significant amount of fear attached to the possibility of a negative outcome. Well into the conversation, Peter admitted that a year prior, his older brother, who he was very close to, had a similar episode of low back pain. He formed an addiction to opioids and overdosed several months later. 

Public outcry and sincere concern has to lead the Canadian government to the creation of a Mayor’s task force on the opioid crisis https://fcm.ca/en/resources/the-opioid-crisis-city-based-solutions

This type of change, due to the extent of this crisis, is inevitable. 

Change often starts with the quiet undertone of conversation had by a few. If the ideas of societal change are warranted and resonate with the majority of us, these conversations grow. Such change is occurring currently in the world of pain management and interventions for helping those dealing with chronic pain to find viable, safe options for care. 

Opioid prescribing frequency is reducing in Canada, and guidelines are frequently updated to ensure the best patient outcomes http://www.cpsa.ca/lets-talk-about-prescribing/ https://www.cfpc.ca/uploadedFiles/CPD/Opioid%20poster_CFP_ENG.pdf

I first became aware of some of the newest research on pain medication alternatives and pain management while in Australia. David Butler and Lorimer Moseley have been studying pain and our perceptions of it for 15 years. They have painstakingly worked to understand how people perceive pain and what we can do to help reduce pain. They surmise that the most effective treatment for pain is knowing why you are in pain. This may seem simplistic, but when we understand how our bodies create and deal with pain, it can empower the pain sufferer to greater action to help reduce suffering. https://www.bodyinmind.org/wp-content/uploads/Moseley-Butler-2015-J-Pain-15-years-of-explaining-pain.pdf

In New Zealand, Dr. Heidi Havvik has been doing similar research as it relates to chiropractic, spinal function, and neurophysiology. Dr. Havvik assesses how Chiropractic adjustment facilitates a better connection between the brain and the body and allows for pain messages to be reduced. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28196631 

One of the primary take-home messages from these Down-Under researchers is that pain does not necessarily relate to tissue damage. Meaning, if someone is feeling pain, it does not necessarily mean they are damaging their tissues. Another interesting finding is that our processing of pain is somewhat reliant on what is occurring at the level of the spinal cord. Meaning, what is happening in a person’s spine can impact how much pain they are experiencing. If the spinal column is under stress from altered or reduced movement, it appears pain levels may increase. As humans, we are typically aware of when our major joints like a shoulder or a hip are not moving correctly. However, we tend not to have the same awareness of the 24 joints in our spine. 

“As it is becoming clear that chiropractors impact brain function consistently, it is very likely that chiropractic care influences not only the biomechanical movement patterns of the spine and improves proprioceptive processing of the spine, but also directly impacts the so-called ‘pain matrix’ in the brain and thus…….has an effect on a person’s perception of pain. Chiropractic care may alter the way a person ‘feels’ pain and may, therefore, help chronic musculoskeletal pain sufferers by improving…….. inhibition of pain.” https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-42984-3.pdf

In the spirit of change, we can all agree that we need to do better when helping people with chronic pain. Diet, mindfulness, exercise, and chiropractic care have all been assessed and evaluated as being useful in the treatment of chronic pain. 

In North America, patients are seven times more likely to be prescribed an opioid than in Sweden. We are also significantly more likely to have that prescription filled https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190904165221.htm. With the tremendous resources we have, I believe we will lead the change towards exceedingly better pain management. Chiropractors are effective, safe, and knowledgeable when it comes to dealing with people in pain. Research is favorable in supporting chiropractic as an effective method to reduce opioid use; 

 “A 2013 case study of a chiropractic-medical collaboration in a Family Health Team found that narcotics were prescribed to 14% of patients who were referred for chiropractic care compared to 43% of patients who were not referred. Further, patients referred for chiropractic care had 25% fewer physician visits and imaging requests than those who were not.” https://www.cfpc.ca/uploadedFiles/CPD/Opioid%20poster_CFP_ENG.pdf

If we want to continue to change and develop into the best versions of ourselves, into the healthiest of societies, we need to change our attitude towards pain and the conservative interventions that are objectively showing positive results. There are alternatives to pain medication! 

Chiropractors assess, detect and remove interference to the spinal cord and nervous system. Chiropractors help the brain and spinal cord to ‘rewire’ itself to better process pain. 

Chiropractic is one of the safest forms of care available to help those dealing with pain. 

Reducing pain allows us all to move better and ultimately to live better. 

Chiropractic helps people to live a fuller, more vital, and potentially pain-free life. 

It is no longer an option to continue on the same path of pain medication usage. There are viable alternatives available for many dealing with pain. Chiropractic care is one of the safest and most effective forms of pain management. Call or email today to discuss how chiropractic care can benefit you.

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