Understanding an Epidemic, Rethinking Pain Management

Since 1999, deaths involving opioids have quadrupled. Just a few short years ago, more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving drugs. Another two million people mistreated or depended on opioids for their relief. Insufficient pain management paired with the epidemic of prescription opioid overuse and mistreatment has taken a stark toll on thousands of people across the United States attempting to seek relief for their pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as one in four patients prescribed opioids long-term for non-cancer pain in their primary care settings struggle with addiction. In addition, more than 1,000 people are treated daily in the ER for abusing prescription opioids.

Beyond the perils of addiction and overdose, prescription drugs that help to dull, or numb, pain may persuade an individual that a musculoskeletal (muscle or joint/movement) related condition is less severe than it really is, or that it’s healed. This misperception often leads to overexertion, a delay in the healing process, or worse, permanent injury. There are other, natural/alternative (non-drug) approaches to pain management.

Recognizing the Value of Natural Pain Relief/Control

In 2017, the American College of Physicians (ACP) updated its guidelines for the treatment of short- and long-term low back pain. The college advocated first using non-invasive, non-drug treatments before turning to drug therapies. The guidelines, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, were based on a review of the latest randomized controlled trials and observational studies, citing the effectiveness, and appropriateness, of heat/ice, massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic adjustments. Only when these aforementioned treatments provide little or no relief, the guidelines recommend that patients should resort to medicines such as ibuprofen or muscle relaxants. Even then, the research indicates that such medicines possess limited pain-relieving effects. Furthermore, the guidelines indicate that prescription opioids should be the last effort for those suffering from low back pain, to minimize the risk of addiction, long-term use, overdose, and further injury.

In 2016, the CDC released guidelines in response to the opioid epidemic, promoting non-pharmacologic treatments for chronic pain.

In 2015, the Joint Commission, an independent, not-for-profit organization known for its accreditation of more than 20,000 healthcare systems in the U.S. (including approximately 80% of America’s hospitals), acknowledged the value of non-drug treatments by adding chiropractic and acupuncture to its pain management protocols.

Michael “Dr. Mike” Roney, D.C., is a musculoskeletal specialist who recently joined Pawling Family Chiropractic, located in the Atrium on Route 22. He can be reached at (845) 855-1475, FellaWellness.com online, or by email at DrMike@FellaWellness.com.