While the prescription of opioids for back pain is a common practice in the United States, such analgesics are commonly associated with addiction, drug abuse, and overdose. The opioid epidemic is a national problem, and what’s more, opioids are not so helpful in cases of back pain as is chiropractic care. Cases of back pain should be treated first by chiropractic means and not the prescription of opioids.
The Danger of Opioids
Opioids have been used frequently to treat pain in the United States since the early 1860s when morphine was used to treat soldiers wounded in the Civil War. Since then, opioid dependency has only grown, resulting in an epidemic of opioid pain medication prescriptions that escalated dramatically in the 1990s. In 2012 alone, health care professionals issued 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication, a staggering number that amounts to one bottle of pills for every adult in the United States.
Over 650,000 opioid prescriptions are filled every day in the US. These analgesics are highly addictive, with the likelihood of chronic opioid use spiking after only a few days. A single day of opioid exposure offers a 6% chance of opioid dependence a year later, while exposure for only eight days increases to 13.5%. Chronic opioid use is associated with adverse drug events (ADEs) such as misuse, abuse, and overdose.
The most at-risk age brackets for opioid-related ADEs are seniors (age 65 and above) and young adults ages 18-25. People with respiratory issues (including sleep apnea and asthma) and those with mental health concerns like depression and anxiety are also considered high-risk.
Opioids for Back Pain
Nearly 60% of US opioid prescriptions written out are specifically for opioids for back pain treatment. While opioids do offer pain relief, the evidence is tenuous at best that opioids assuage chronic pain or improve quality of life in the face of it. Even the medical community has difficulty coming to a consensus about how opioid pain medications should be used, as evidenced by the fact that opioid prescription rates across the United States vary in ways that do not associate with the underlying health status of state-specific populations.
Chiropractic as an Alternative to Opioids for Back Pain
Chronic back back is a very general term for prolonged pain in the back. It can be thoracic or lumbar, caused by injury, disease, or even poor posture. While opioids for back pain are often the first measure prescribed for relief, research indicates that chiropractic is proving an effective alternative even though it is still a relatively untapped resource. Early prescription of chiropractic care for back pain can be a powerful step against the progression of the opioid epidemic.
In a study published in 2018, (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0161475417301367) researchers utilized logistic regression of health insurance claims to compare chiropractic patients to those who did not receive chiropractic care in regard to the likelihood of such patients experiencing an ADE. The risk of an ADE was 51% lower among non-cancer patients who received chiropractic care. A follow-up study published in 2022 found that the risk of filling an opioid prescription within one year after an initial chiropractic visit was 56% lower among chiropractic care recipients as compared to non-recipients, specifically in senior Medicare beneficiaries.
The evidence is clear: chiropractic measures can provide significant reduction in back pain and negate the perceived need for opioids to treat pain. The benefits to overall mitigation of back pain are impressive, not to mention the reduced costs of opioid use, both financial and in the toll they take on mental and physical wellness. The data indicates that chiropractic care should be offered as an initial means of treatment for back pain and opioids considered only as a last resort.
Treating Back Pain at Utah Sports and Wellness
At Utah Sports and Wellness, we understand just how debilitating back pain can be. We want you to be able to sit, stand, sleep, and walk without pain, but we don’t recommend opioids as your treatment. As a licensed chiropractic clinic, our priority is to provide real pain relief, not just to mask symptoms. We offer spinal manipulation, spinal decompression, sports therapy, and muscle reactivation services, just to name a few to help you get your back back on track.
Before filling a prescription for opioids for back pain, come see us at Utah Sports and Wellness. We will help discover the source of chronic pain and treat it at the source so you can have renewed mobility and quality of life.