The American Academy of Pain Medicine published the results of a study on March 6, 2020, in their journal Pain Medicine showing that utilizing chiropractic reduces the number of opioid prescriptions.
The stated objective of this study was, “Utilization of nonpharmacological pain management may prevent unnecessary use of opioids. Our objective was to evaluate the impact of chiropractic utilization upon use of prescription opioids among patients with spinal pain.”
The study begins by identifying the scale of the problem, “Drug overdose deaths in 2017 increased by almost 10% over 2016, with opioids accounting for almost 48,000 cases.” The authors point out that a need for a safe and drug-free alternative is needed to help reduce the opioid epidemic issue. They also note that the “Institute of Medicine has recommended the use of nonpharmacological therapies as effective alternatives to pharmacotherapy for patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain.”
The American College of Physicians also recommends non-pharmacological approaches to treating back pain. Presently, of all U.S. adults who are prescribed opioids, 59 percent are for back pain.
Several previous studies have shown that chiropractic reduces the use of opioids. One study of 165,569 adults diagnosed with low back pain found that utilization of chiropractic was associated with reduced use of opioids. Another study of 14,025 military veterans showed a reduction of opioid usage after chiropractic care was started.
This study was conducted by looking at 101,221 insurance claims of people in three U.S. states who were suffering with musculoskeletal complaints. The study compared to see the number of opioid prescriptions filled over a six-year period for those who went to a chiropractor compared to those who did not.
The results of this study showed that chiropractic recipients were at about half the risk of seeking an opioid prescription over the six-year follow-up period than those that did not get chiropractic. The study also showed that those who sought chiropractic earlier for their problem were even less likely to seek an opioid prescription than those that waited longer to see a chiropractor.
In their conclusion the authors summed up the results by stating, “Among patients with spinal pain disorders, for recipients of chiropractic care, the risk of filling a prescription for an opioid analgesic over a six-year period was reduced by half, as compared with nonrecipients. Among those who saw a chiropractor within 30 days of being diagnosed with a spinal pain disorder, the reduction in risk was greater as compared with those who visited a chiropractor after the acute phase had passed.”