No one likes to live in pain, but many people think that the only possible relief options available to them come in the form of a pill or costly surgeries. Medication and surgical intervention can be helpful, and in some cases necessary, but it is imperative to explore alternative pain management methods as well. The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (F4CP) outlines the problem and possible solutions rather well in their article titled “Pain Management and Opioid Safety.”

The American Pain Problem

According to the National Center for Health Statistic’s November 2020 Data Brief, chronic pain is a growing concern plaguing the American population, with 20.4% of adults reporting chronic pain in 2019. Chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain, as in pain that frequently limits the ability to live and work in a desired manner, appear to increase with age and appear most prevalent among adults ages 65 and over. Additionally, adults living in more rural areas appear to be at a higher risk for chronic pain symptoms.

Reevaluating Safe and Effective Pain Management

For mild to moderate pain, it’s been a common practice to take over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol (Acetaminophen) or Advil (Ibuprofen). For more severe pain, opioids have often been used, but many healthcare professionals are now attempting to limit their use due to the possibilities of addiction and rising overdose rates related to opioid misuse. Over-prescribing of opioids and misleading pharmaceutical marketing tactics since the 1990s have contributed to the U.S. Opioid Crisis, with roughly 68% of drug overdose deaths involving an opioid (2017) and 130 Americans dying from an opioid overdose daily, 46 of which on average are related to prescription opioid use. It is also estimated that approximately 41% of patients participating in pain management primarily based on opioid therapy may develop opioid dependence.

Therefore, attitudes regarding chronic pain management are shifting focus from opioid therapy to non-pharmacy-based approaches in the hopes of improving patients’ physical and mental functioning.

Pain Management Alternatives

The combination of active and passive healing modalities in a patient’s routine can help to alleviate pain symptoms and create a foundation for long-term pain management.

Active methods tend to relate to a patient’s movement and a personal health and fitness regimen, incorporating regular safe exercise, yoga, tai chi and potentially physical therapy. Yoga, in particular, is a practice that has gathered a major following in recent years and has been viewed by many as a beneficial complement to chiropractic care.

“Research suggests that a carefully adapted set of yoga poses may help reduce pain and improve function in people with chronic low-back pain,” noted the National Center for Complementary Health (NCCH) in its clinical digest titled “Use of Yoga, Meditation, and Chiropractic by Adults and Children: What the Science Says.”

Meditation is also highly valued, with research suggesting “that meditation can be a powerful tool for learning control of attention, regulating emotion and increasing self-awareness,” as stated in the NCCH article referenced above.

Passive methods refer to receiving chiropractic care, acupuncture or massages. Emotional monitoring can also be beneficial, as pain can be attributed to stress, so meditation, mindfulness and talk therapy should be considered as viable treatment options as well.

As the leader in vitalistic healthcare education, Life University (Life U) educates tomorrow’s leaders in the Chiropractic profession, empowering chiropractors to identify and treat the three inferences that cause pain and misalignment in our bodies: physical trauma, emotional stresses and environmental toxins. Chiropractors typically work largely with proper spinal adjustment and manipulation, but chiropractic care can be applied to pain management of many parts of the body. Learn more about chiropractic care at Life U by visiting this link.

As for acupuncture, it is used for pain treatment in many cases as outlined by the Mayo Clinic, including pain related to chemotherapy, dental pain, fibromyalgia, headaches and more. Lastly, massage is a pain relief alternative that many are turning to for more healthful pain treatment.

“Massage used to be considered an indulgence, but it’s now recognized as a legitimate therapy for some painful conditions,” stated in Harvard Health in an article titled “Therapeutic Massage for Pain Relief.”

In closing, when used responsibly under licensed professional care, medication can be helpful with certain pain management, but it is not and should not be considered as the first and only option for pain management. Next time you begin to experience aches and pains, consider all possible pain management options at your disposal, including visiting your local chiropractor.

 

References (from original F4CP article):

  1. Institute of Medicine Report from the Committee on Advancing Pain Research, Care, and Education: Relieving Pain in America, A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research. The National Academies Press; 2011.
  2. Dahlhamer et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2018 Sep 14;67(36):1001-1006. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6736a2
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Opioid Overdose. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/
  4. Wide-ranging online data for epidemiologic research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2018. Available at http://wonder.cdc.gov and at CDC https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/
  5. J. A. Boscarino, S. N. Hoffman, and J. J. Han, “Opioid-use disorder among patients on long-term opioid therapy: impact of final DSM-5 diagnostic criteria on prevalence and correlates.,” Subst. Abuse Rehabil., vol. 6, pp. 83–91, Jan. 2015.
  6. Dowell D, Haegerich TM, Chou R. CDC guideline for prescribing opioids for chronic pain, United States, 2016. JAMA. 2016 Apr 19;315(15):1624-45. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.1464.
  7. Robeck IR, Malinoff HL, Pohl MI, eds. The American Society of Addiction Medicine Handbook on Pain and Addiction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2018:190-206.
  8. Krebs EE, Gravely A, Nugent S, et al. Effect of opioid vs nonopioid medications on pain-related function in patients with chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain: The SPACE Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018 Mar 6;319(9):872-82. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.0899.
  9. Opioid Taper Decision Tool. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Veteran Health Administration, Pharmacy Benefits Manager, Academic Detailing Service. 2016. Available at https://pbm.va.gov/AcademicDetailingService/Documents/Pain_Opioid_Taper_Tool_IB_10_939_P96820.pdf Source: Jeremiah McKelvey, PharmD