Many Americans see a chiropractor every year to help them with their back pain, but there are still quite a few people who do not trust that chiropractors have the ability to treat what they consider to be medical issues. Although it’s true that chiropractic can’t help with medical issues such as asthma and high blood pressure, it can be effective in treating issues like lower back pain.

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A Different Approach

Chiropractic takes on a different approach to treating back pain than traditional medicine. Pain clinics treat millions of patients with lower back pain each year through the use of opioid pain medicines, muscle relaxants, and epidural steroid injections. Orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons perform hundreds of thousands of spinal fusions and other spine-related surgeries every year to try to help their patients experience relief from pain. Chiropractors, on the other hand, use methods such as spinal manipulations, called adjustments, to coax the spine back into alignment. They also use instruments called activators as a gentler way to align the spine.

Researching a Safer Method

With the rise in the use of opioid pain medicine and the rise in deaths associated with opioid use, the medical community has been busy with research to find safer methods to help back pain sufferers. Between 2012 and 2016, a research team evaluated 750 active-duty U.S. military service members who were experiencing back pain. The mean age of the research participants was 30.9 years old. They were placed into two groups. The first group received a combination of chiropractic and traditional medical care. The second group received only traditional care. Traditional care included prescription medication to control pain and inflammation. The chiropractic care included spinal manipulations along with treatment using ice, heat, cryotherapy, and rehabilitative exercises.

Results of Study

After six weeks, the groups were re-evaluated. The group that received both traditional medical and chiropractic care reported moderately greater improvement in the intensity of pain as well as their ability to perform everyday tasks. The results were clear and convincing evidence that chiropractic care is safe and effective. Patients were highly satisfied with their treatment and in the perceived benefits of the treatment.

The researchers were excited to find an effective way to treat lower back pain without using dangerous opioid pain medication or invasive surgery that may or may not benefit the patient. It was seen as a first step in improving care for military personnel.

Chiropractic Care in the General Population

Back and neck pain are common among the general population as well. Back pain is the second most common reason for the loss of work hours in the US. Studies show that 1 in 4 adults have consulted a medical professional for back or neck pain in the last year and 65% have seen a doctor for back pain at some point in their lifetime. The medical profession is constantly looking for ways to treat back and neck pain that do not involve prescription drugs. Their guidelines recommend the use of non-drug therapies as the first-line treatment for back and neck pain. When polled, at least 78% of adults expressed interest in finding ways other than medication to treat their pain.

What the General Population Thinks about Chiropractic

A 2016 study by Christine Goertz, Vice Chancellor of Research and Health Policy at the Palmer College of Chiropractic, found that about 14% of the population had seen a chiropractor in the last year. Those who had seen a chiropractor were asked whether they thought chiropractic care, pain medication, or physical therapy was the safest treatment. 33% stated that chiropractic was the safest compared to 12% who thought pain medication was safest. The highest number of patients ranked physical therapy as the safest. As for effectiveness, 29% ranked chiropractic as the most effective treatment compared to 22% who ranked pain medication as the most effective.

A recent Gallup poll found that 53% of Americans prefer to see a medical doctor about their back and neck pain, while 28% prefer a chiropractor.

Convincing Patients to Give Chiropractic a Chance

What are the reasons, then, that Americans continue to use pain medication rather than seeking chiropractic care? Several reasons may be at play. For one, human beings have ingrained habits that they find hard to change. Over the years, people have gotten into the habit of popping a pill when they’re in pain, and old habits are hard to break.

There may also be financial reasons why people do not seek chiropractic care. Some insurance plans will not consider chiropractic as a first-line treatment and will not pay for chiropractic treatments until traditional medical treatments have failed to help the patient.

Another reason for a pain sufferer’s reluctance to try chiropractic is a lack of information, creating apprehension about the treatments offered by chiropractors. Many people are uninformed or misinformed about the treatment, so they are afraid to give it a chance. However, once they have seen a chiropractor, they are more likely to seek chiropractic care the next time they need relief from pain.

Chiropractors often state that patients are very apprehensive when they show up for their first visit, but after the procedures are explained to them, they generally become much more at ease. Usually, when they have completed their treatments, they express extremely favorable reactions to the procedures and their results.

For pain sufferers who would like to give chiropractic care a chance to make a difference in their lives, search to find a chiropractor near you.

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