What is Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is defined as any pain that lasts longer than 3 months, or pain that persists longer than the typical time for tissue healing to take place. Chronic pain is unfortunately a major concern to our society. It is constantly being researched for an understanding of why it exists, how it develops, and solutions to this problem. Chronic pain is one of the highest reasons for diminished quality of life and disability in America.
Many chronic pain situations stem from underlying musculoskeletal conditions. The National Center for Health Statistics reported in 2012, that musculoskeletal conditions were the highest reported chronic medical condition in the adult population (54% of all reporting adults, 2nd was circulatory conditions at 31%). Opioids and other pharmacological solutions are being replaced by complementary and alternative therapies as first line treatment options. Opioid and pharmacological therapies have proven to be effective in reducing pain in the short term, however they have very little long term effectiveness or improvement in functional capacity. There has also been a strong concern for dependence and risk for harmful effects associated with using opioids and similar drugs.
If you are dealing with chronic pain, it is important to understand your options and individualized benefit-risk assessment of any therapy you and your doctor decide on.
The Safer Solution
The CDC, FDA, and even the Institute of Medicine have called for safer solutions than prescribing opioids in addressing chronic pain. Here is a scary statistic- overdose deaths of opioid drugs have quadrupled since 1999, and sales of these drugs have seen an paralleled upward trends in that time. Also, 18 billion is the estimated dollar figure costs to American employers from opioid abuse. This is seen in lost productivity, sick days, and medical expenses. Not only are opioids potentially harmful for the patient, but they are also a major burden on society.
New clinical guidelines throughout the medical community are focusing on non-pharmacological options in dealing with chronic pain. Chiropractic care is one of the most utilized alternative care options in the United States. Chiropractic is a hands-on approach at restoring optimal function of the musculoskeletal system. Research has found that acute and chronic chiropractic patients report better outcomes in pain, disability, satisfaction of care, as well as better cost-effectiveness in treatment plans.
Chiropractic has shown evidence in avoidance in surgery. A study conducted by the Journal Spine reported that roughly 42% of patient who first saw a surgeon had surgery, as opposed to only 1.5% of patients who were first seen by a chiropractor for similar conditions. The results indicated savings in costs to the patients and superior outcomes. Another study of Blue Cross Blue Shield insured patients with low back pain saved around 40% in health care costs if they saw a chiropractor, compared to patients who saw their primary care doctors.
Put out the Fire, instead of turning off the smoke detector
All though we all know how annoying smoke detectors may be at times, we understand their value. A smoke detector does just that-detects smoke. It does not find or detect fire. In a scenario where your are alarmed by a smoke detector you have 2 options- 1. Turn off the smoke detector(s) OR 2. Find the fire. If you were to just shut off the smoke detector, you would neglect the underlying issue and the fire would grow and grow. Pain is very similar to the smoke detector. Pain is the signal that something is wrong and there is potential injury occurring somewhere in our body. Opioid and pharmacological solutions to pain are similar to turning off the smoke detectors, without putting out the fire. They are effective in the short term, with getting rid of the pain (AKA, the annoying beeping of a detector), but they do not address the underlying issue. Chiropractic care has proven effective at addressing the root of musculoskeletal problems.