Opioids Can Be Overkill

What are the alternatives to painkillers?

by Dr. Timothy Douglass

Our nation is facing a real epidemic with more than a hundred deaths a day from the overuse of pain medication. 

Opioids prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain include medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and fentanyl. From 2000 to 2014, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids tripled. Further data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows opioids were involved in 42,249 deaths in 2016, that anyone can be at risk, and dependence does not discriminate based on sex, age, race, or region of the country.

Why has our country become so addicted to opioids?

“When you trace the roots, I think it started maybe 20 years ago, or perhaps less, when there was an actual concern that people’s pain wasn’t being sufficiently managed or even ignored,” says James Whedon, DC, MS, director of health services research at the Southern California University of Health Sciences. “Pharmaceutical companies started to jump on board with this idea and began engaging in some pretty aggressive marketing tactics. Now we have a situation where many hundreds of thousands of opioid prescriptions are dispensed every day in the United States.”

Getting to the root cause of why someone is prescribed a painkiller in the first place may lead to a possible solution to the opioid epidemic facing our nation.

After the common cold, low back injury is the number one reason for missed work. Eighty percent of our adult population hurt their back or will complain of back pain in their lifetime. If they visit a medical clinic first, they are more likely than not to be prescribed an anti-inflammatory, a pain killer, or muscle relaxer as a primary course of treatment. Each of these medications have known reactions within the body, ranging from upset stomach to more serious gastrointestinal disturbances and even death.

With back and neck pain among the top pain generators in our nation, chiropractic physicians across the country offer an alternative to medication and surgery and are making a real difference in how we as a culture treat pain.  They look at health a little differently than traditional medicine by focusing more on the preventative aspects of health and well-being, concentrating on the science, art and philosophy which maintains that the human body innately seeks internal balance. This balanced health model primarily looks at problems of the nervous system (our brain and nerves to the body) that can be injured by trauma.

A difficult birth, falling as a child when learning to walk, riding a bike, participating in contact sports, and the all-too-common fender bender can cause misalignments to our frame that interfere with optimum nerve expression and communication throughout our body leading to pain, poor strength, and illness.  The nerves of the brain and body coordinate with the endocrine (hormone) system and all other systems of our bodies from our first heartbeat to the digestion of food, metabolism, regulation of our immune systems and muscles that control our movement.

Chiropractors utilize specific corrective adjustments to the spine and other articulations like the shoulders, hips, feet and even the jaw.  Care focuses on macro trauma as described above or micro trauma (such as overwork, lack of quality of sleep, and stress) to the body that cause nerve interference. 

Many studies over the years have shown the benefits of chiropractic spinal adjustments as a proven, cost-effective approach to musculoskeletal pain.  Scientific literature has also supported spinal adjustments for a variety of human ailments as a result of the fine work of many osteopathic physicians.

Both chiropractic and osteopathic physicians look to the musculoskeletal system as an important source of neck and back pain and a host of other ailments such as headaches, arthritis, digestive disorders, allergies, sinusitis and other maladies that afflict the human condition.

In a landmark study conducted in our home state of Florida by Steve Wolk, Ph.D. and repeated in other states with similar results found that 10,652 workers who suffered a low back injury on the job when initially treated by a chiropractor versus a medical doctor were less likely to become temporarily disabled or, if disabled, remained disabled for a shorter period of time. Patients treated by medical doctors were hospitalized at a much higher rate than patients treated by chiropractors. Patients seen by a chiropractic physician had lower costs as well.  Conservative chiropractic care is covered by most insurance companies and has been proven safe and effective for the largest pain generator, low back pain.

With such positive outcomes with natural chiropractic care, why the push for pain medication for the first line of care?

“I think it’s a matter of educating people about the safety and effectiveness of chiropractic,” says Dr. Timothy Douglass, a licensed Chiropractic Physician at Douglass Chiropractic in Destin. “Chiropractors educate their patients about nutrition, exercise, proper sleep, ergonomics, sitting mechanics, how to lift to prevent low back injury and how to prevent text neck from too much smart phone or computer use.”

Dr. Douglass encourages patients to explore a natural way to look at how they care for the miracle that is their body and how to prevent illness before it becomes a medical emergency.  “If you are suffering from back or neck pain, consider talking to your local chiropractic physician first. They appreciate the absolute need for quality medical care to include medication and surgery when necessary and will work with your local medical doctor to assure you get the care you deserve.”

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

Dr. Timothy Douglass



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