I just read a news story this morning that goes in line with a Centers for Disease Control press release that says that Americans are taking too many prescription drugs. Apparently we are in an epidemic of people taking way too many prescription pain pills, overdosing on those pain pills, and even dying from the overdose. More people are dying from prescription pain killers than people who die from heroin and cocaine.
The scenario goes like this. You injure yourself in a car accident or playing sports, or you neglect your back throughout your life. The neck, back or knee develops chronic problems, until one day something trivial happens that causes excruciating pain. You go to the doctor, and he writes a prescription for pain pills. Hydrocodone and methadone (Vicodine), oxycodone, and others. You take 2-3, develop a stomach ache from them, but they make you feel good. Note, that it may not even relive the pain, but they may make you feel high. You see your depression lift, your anxieties go away, and the suffering from the pain shrink. The next day you take 2-3 more pills, and so on.
But, pretty soon, your brain starts developing resistance to the drug, and you need to take more and more pills to have the same effect. The opioid receptors in the brain down-regulate their efficiency, and before you know it you are taking 20-30 pills a day to keep away your depression, anxiety, and pain. If you take too many, your respiratory centers of the brainstem can shut down, stopping your natural breathing mechanisms, and ending your life.
There’s a better way to work with your body’s own pain-reliving system. My patients handle this with a three-pronged approach.
- The first thing we want to do with the pain is take care of it at the source. If the pain is in the neck, we want to locate the cause of the pain with our best precision, and take measures to reduce the swelling, relieve the postural pressure on the structure, and promote good movement within the body part. If there is active swelling, we want you to use ice to reduce that swelling. We recognize that acute pain can respond well to anti-inflammatory drugs, but we also caution that this is a short-term solution.
- We want to work with the neurological circuits in the brain and spinal cord. There are circuits of nerves that naturally shut down pain as the pain tries to reach the brain. If you don’t move properly (mostly in the spine), these pain relieving circuits don’t work. Over time, if these circuits aren’t doing their job, the overwhelming pain coming from the body and entering the spinal cord can start to recruit alternate pathways for pain that were originally designed to process movement and posture. Our care naturally restores the pain-gate circuits to shut off the pain before it goes any further.
- Our best patients are proactive about working on the strength of their muscles and the flexibility of their joints. Keeping the muscles of the body and back strong helps to keep pain away naturally. If you focus more on improving movement, you shift focus away from the pain, and this also helps to minimize the pain pathways in the brain. Keeping muscles strong supports the body so you don’t damage things any further.
Chiropractic care, including spinal adjustments, can be an important method of treatment for your pain. If you currently take pain pills for neck or back pain, and you are looking to reduce your risk of dependence on the opioids, chiropractic care can help you keep your pain levels down (or away) while you work on detoxifying your system of prescription drugs.
Chiropractic care restores motion to parts of the spine that isn’t moving well. Chiropractic care promotes the body’s innate pain relieving and healing mechanisms. And, chiropractic care helps maintain strength and flexibility in the joints of the spine and body.
Todd Lloyd, DC
Chiropractor in St. George, UT