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Technique Update: Chiropractic Care Reduces Opioid Prescriptions

By Dr. David Graber, Council on Technique and Clinical Excellence Chair

A new systematic review presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine revealed that patients seeing a DC reduced the overall use of opioids.  They found that, “patients who visited a chiropractor for a musculoskeletal pain condition were 49 percent less likely to receive an opioid prescription than their counterparts who went to other healthcare providers.” 

Medscape published the article titled, Chiropractic Care Tied to Significant Reduction in Opioid Scripts. Leading neurologists, physiatrists and other medical professionals attended the conference to learn, “Chiropractic care for musculoskeletal pain is associated with a significant reduction in opioid prescriptions compared with non-chiropractic care….”

The study covered full-scope chiropractic care, not just spinal manipulation.  “Chiropractors provide many of the treatments included in the clinical guidelines for the initial treatment of low back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis of the hip, knee, and hand,” so they looked at 62,000 patients in six studies from all available literature on chiropractic use and opioid prescription patterns.

Some of the findings:

  • Fewer chiropractic patients received an opioid prescription.
  • Chiropractic utilization was 11.3 percent to 51.3 percent.
  • Chiropractic patients' opioid use ranged from 12.3 percent to 57.6 percent vs. non-chiropractic opioid utilization, which ranged from  31.2 percent to 65.9 percent.

What was curious was the comment from Ann E. Hansen, MD, from the University of Washington/Boise VA Medical Center in Idaho, who stated that in regard to chiropractic care and other movement-based therapies, "there is little scientific data to support the specific applications of these modalities."  I wonder if she is ignorant of the research, or does she have willful blindness?

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