Alternative Medicine Makes Gains in Treating Pain

My chiropractor always fixes me. When I turn my ankle in a gopher hole, twist my back moving heavy furniture, slip on a wet spot on my kitchen floor, or be it the perpetual bad hip I’ve had since birth, he has put me back together every time. Last month I ended up with a shoulder sprain. The pain got so bad after 3 days that I was nauseous and crying. Once again, it’s chiro to the rescue. After two office visits with electronic stimulation followed by two weeks of ice packs and ibubrofen, the pain was gone. Now I have my full range of motion back with only occasional discomfort.

Naturopaths and chiropractors have methods frowned upon by mainstream medicine, and they don’t prescribe addictive pain pills. From acupuncture to massage to oils and supplements, patients often feel relief. These doctors provide an approach that is needed at this time when more than 30,000 people die from opioid overdose in America each year (half are prescription painkillers).

The Oregon Medicaid system decided to cover spinal adjustment for lower back pain last year. Earlier this year, the American College of Physicians recommended non-surgical acupuncture, yoga, and chiropractic care as the lead treatment for lower back pain. Naturopaths and chiropractors are lobbying Congress to get these treatments into the VA health system, as well as the National Health Service Corps, which places providers in community health centers. President Trump is talking about expanding what flexible spending accounts will cover, including treatments that insurance doesn’t cover.

A patient needing a shoulder replacement gets massage therapy, an anti-inflammatory diet, and oils and topical creams from a naturopath to rub on the pain points. It has lessened the pain so that he can function normally and participate in hobbies. After trying 15 different physicians to treat his pain, it was the naturopath who made his pain manageable without painkillers.

Mainstream doctors are wary that patients will be led away from conventional treatments, yet some are slowly embracing the new ways to treat pain. Many alternative remedies are low risk. Dietary supplements cost less than $10, while treatments like massage and acupuncture can cost $100 per hour. With an average chiropractic adjustment costing $65, treating the pain before it becomes chronic is worth it to reduce the number of people addicted to opioids.
Thielking, Megan. “As opioid crisis flares, naturopaths and chiropractors lobby for bigger roles in treating pain.” STAT, 4 Apr 2017. Web. 4 Apr 2017.

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