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Research: Chiropractic Tied to Major Reduction in Opioid Prescriptions

Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review Shows Patients That Visited a Chiropractor 49% Less Likely to Receive an Opioid Prescription

Does access to drug-free chiropractic care dramatically decrease the use of opioid prescriptions among musculoskeletal pain patients? According to exciting new research presented at the American Academy of Pain Medicine’s 2019 Annual Meeting and recently reported in Medscape Medical News, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

The new meta-analysis and systematic review, conducted by researchers at the Yale Center for Medical Informatics, reveals that chiropractic care for musculoskeletal pain is associated with a significant reduction in opioid prescriptions, when compared to patients who did not receive chiropractic care. In fact, patients who saw a chiropractor were 49 percent less likely to receive an opioid prescription than their counterparts who saw other health care providers. The study reviewed studies that analyzed more than 60,000 patients.

“Preventing opioid addiction and overdose continues to be a significant public health priority; and as part of a strategy to lessen opioid use, clinical guidelines now recommend many non-pharmacological options to be considered as front-line treatment ahead of any medication,” lead author Kelsey L. Corcoran, DC, VA Connecticut Health Care System and Yale Center for Medical Informatics, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, told Medscape Medical News. “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.”

This exciting new research confirms the results of a study made possible by a grant from the Council on Chiropractic Guidelines and Practice Parameters (CCGPP), thanks to a generous donation made by the Michigan Chiropractic Foundation. The study, which looked at more than 12,000 patients, looked at the association between seeing a doctor of chiropractic and the use of prescription opioids in low-back pain patients. The preliminary results of the study, which was conducted by Dr. James Whedon, DC, MS, a highly-respected researcher at Southern California University of Health Sciences, found that:

  • The adjusted likelihood of filling a prescription for a prescription opioid was 55% lower among chiropractic recipients as compared to non-recipients.
  • Average per-person charges for clinical services for low-back pain and for prescription opioids were also significantly lower for recipients of chiropractic services.

Chiropractic and other conservative forms of health care and pain management are becoming a more and more critical part of the national strategy to combat the over-prescription and overuse of opioid painkillers. In January, the Trump Administration encouraged private Medicare Advantage plans, which cover approximately 20 million American seniors, to cover non-opioid pain treatment options. In 2017, Congress passed opioid legislation directing the Department of Health and Human Services to review its payment policies to ensure that opioids are not prescribed over more conservative options.

Source: Medscape Medical News, “Chiropractic Care Tied to Significant Reduction in Opioid Scripts” by Fran Lowry, March 19, 2019



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