Opioid Health

Chiropractic Treatment A Safe Alternative To Prescription Opioids

The overuse of opioids has caused a nationwide crisis of epidemic proportions.

From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people died in the United States from prescription opioid overdoses. North Carolina includes four of the top 25 cities with the highest opioid abuse rates, including the number one city — Wilmington.

While there are many reasons for opioid addiction, it often begins as a result of being prescribed medication for pain management.

Each patient case is different, but many experiencing pain from injury, back, spine and neck problems or recurrent headaches are looking to chiropractic as an alternative.

“Chiropractic treatment can provide a safe option for those who want to avoid or eliminate the use of opioids. More than 22 million Americans visit a chiropractor annually and that number is increasing.”

Chiropractic treatment can provide a safe option for those who want to avoid or eliminate the use of opioids. More than 22 million Americans visit a chiropractor annually and that number is increasing.


"With attention now so heavily focused on the reduction or elimination of opioids, patients and medical providers alike are looking for alternatives," explained Dr. Scott Munsterman, a chiropractor and CEO of Best Practices Academy. "The providers best suited, trained and educated on taking a non-pharmacological approach to pain management are chiropractors. We've been doing it this way for decades."


Munsterman continued, "As chiropractors, our goal is to shift this strategy of using pills to help patients manage pain to using proven, non-pharmacological methods such as spinal manipulation to provide real, long-term relief. Fortunately, experts are now recognizing chiropractic as a sound alternative for patients who have neuromuscular problems."


The American College of Physicians updated its guidelines in 2017 to recommend chiropractic and other non-invasive, non-drug treatments of back pain before turning to prescription opioids.


Spinal manipulation allows a chiropractor to eliminate stress on the nervous system. This allows the body to restore normal joint movement and eliminate or reduce pain, among many other benefits.


"Over the years, I've treated thousands of patients – often those who have seen a family medical doctor and then gone on to a neurologist, orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon without trying chiropractic as a first-line treatment," Munsterman said. "Now, we're seeing those patterns shift with many seeking chiropractic care first all in an effort to avoid harmful opioids or invasive procedures or treatments."


He added, "While surgery and medical treatment will always have a place, it is really rewarding to see the benefits of chiropractic treatment recognized. As chiropractors, we know it can often help our patients avoid these costly and invasive options, and really achieve the pain relief they are looking for."


Chiropractic care is focused on natural healing through the use of manipulation based on a specific diagnosis. Patients seeking chiropractic care can rest assured that chiropractic doctors are highly-skilled caregivers who have undergone years of postgraduate training and certifications.

Chiropractors are required to complete an undergraduate degree, followed by four to five years of chiropractic college, residency and/or internship programs, and finally, national board exams, state licensure exams and continuing education – just like any physician.

"As primary care physicians, we're trained to first diagnose our patient's condition," Munsterman explained. "A patient's first chiropractic appointment will feel much like any primary care appointment in that we start with your medical history, followed by a physical assessment including vital signs and an in-depth discussion of your chief complaint. From there, we partner with our patients to develop the best treatment plan based on their specific needs."

Research continues to prove the benefits of multimodal pain management strategies such as chiropractic manipulation, which has been cited and recommended in numerous clinical journals across the country. These benefits include pain reduction, reduced inflammation, better sleep, improved organ function and much more.

It's compelling science for those struggling with pain and other chronic issues, should they look to chiropractic as a treatment option in lieu of prescription medication.

"When patients or providers have questions about treating pain without medication, I point them to the research," Munsterman emphasized. "There are literally no studies that validate the use of opioids for pain. ... Chiropractic treatment is safe, effective and far less costly than surgery – and the benefits have been proven time and again."

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