In 2011, the National Institutes of Health reported that 76 million individuals in the United States live with chronic pain. Of the adults who have pain, over 60 percent have had it for over a year. The most common types of pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are neck pain, lower back pain, and severe headaches or migraines. When patients visit traditional physicians about their pain, there is a good chance they’ll receive a prescription for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or opioids, or triptans for headaches. While these solutions might bring some relief, they’re not the only option available. Many find that chiropractic care, paired with exercise and other lifestyle adjustments, help treat the underlying cause of pain and allow the body to heal.
Possible Effects of Prescription Painkillers
Exploring natural options for pain management, such as chiropractic techniques, is a worthwhile pursuit, as prescription drugs pose the risk of dangerous side effects. The Cleveland Clinic, for example, states that painkillers decrease pain perception. This is troublesome because the body depends on pain signals to alert you to ailments and injuries. Other side effects related to pain medication include:
- Hormonal imbalances
- Constipation and other digestive problems
- Increased pain
- Weakened immune systems
- Liver toxicity
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Drug abuse or dependence
Chiropractic Care for Pain Management
Chiropractic techniques benefit individuals who live in pain, including those with conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder pain, back pain, neck pain, headaches, arthritis and fibromyalgia, according to the NIH. When chiropractors perform spinal manipulations and manipulations of the extremities, they promote your body’s ability to self-heal. The treatments don’t just mask the symptoms; they help combat oxidative stress caused by free radicals and promote DNA repair on a deep cellular level.
The numerous benefits that chiropractic care offers prompted the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society in 2007 to recommend that physicians consider spinal manipulation when self-care is not effective. In numerous studies, individuals who received chiropractic treatments for 12 weeks or longer experienced greater reductions in pain than those who did not. In many cases, chiropractic treatments were as effective as traditional prescription medications. Researchers continue to explore if the efficacy of chiropractic manipulations depend on the length and frequency of treatments.
Complementary Treatments and Lifestyle Changes
As researchers investigate why chiropractic care is so effective, they agree that patients experience the greatest benefits when they pair spinal manipulation with exercise and other lifestyle changes. Exercise helps relieve stress and improve range of motion and posture. It strengthens the core muscles that support the body and may help treat the underlying source of pain. The exercises that patients perform do not have to be strenuous. They can be gentle exercises that use a patient’s own body weight or even yoga. It is best to consult with a chiropractor regarding the best exercises to perform.
To aid with a patient’s pain management efforts, a chiropractor may also recommend relaxation techniques and electrical stimulation using a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator, or TENS, unit. The professional may also offer nutritional counseling and recommend dietary supplements, weight loss or lifestyle changes. For example, for pain that involves inflammation, a chiropractor might recommend consuming turmeric, a natural anti-inflammatory, and limiting refined carbohydrates. Refined, or simple, carbohydrates increase the body’s levels of cytokines, which cause inflammation, glucose and insulin problems, and other diseases, according to Harvard Medical School.
As a patient with pain, you have numerous options for managing your symptoms and regaining a healthy, active lifestyle without the use of drugs. Before discontinuing prescription pain medication, it is best to consult with a physician or chiropractor, as you may need to taper down the dose gradually to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Find a chiropractor in your area to begin reigning in your pain.