Complementary Medicine for Inflammation, Pain, and Chronic Pain Conditions
Women tend to suffer from pain and chronic pain conditions at a higher rate than men, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine reports that “women may become dependent on prescription pain relievers more quickly than men” do.
As the prevalence of pain and chronic pain conditions continues to rise, so has the use and misuse of opioid painkillers by patients to manage their pain conditions. According to a 2016 report from the Surgeon General of the United States, over 28 thousand people died in 2014 from a drug overdose involving some type of opioid. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that that figure climbed to over 33 thousand in 2015, and continues to rise.
Many patients who seek out complementary or integrative therapies suffer from chronic pain and are motivated by their pain conditions to seek alternative therapies beyond conventional opioid prescriptions. Because pain is often associated with inflammation, a condition in and of itself that is associated with a variety of poor health outcomes, managing inflammation and pain through complementary therapies or nutrition therapy can be a safer, effective alternative to prescription painkillers.
Chiropractic Care for Chronic Pain
Chiropractic care can play a role in managing chronic pain. A randomized controlled trial published in 2003 in the British Medical Journal evaluated and compared the effectiveness and costliness of spinal mobilization, physical therapy, or general treatment (counseling, education, and drugs) on chronic neck pain over the course of one year. Researchers evaluated patients on their perceived recovery, intensity of pain, functional disability, and utility after treatment.
The 183 patients were randomized to one of the three treatment branches and the group that received spinal manipulation treatment demonstrated the best results at each of the measurement points throughout the yearlong study. Indeed, in as few as seven weeks, 68% of those patients in the spinal manipulation group made a complete recovery, compared to 51% of the patients in the physical therapy group and 36% in the general care group. As a bonus, the total costs of the spinal manipulation group were about one-third of the costs of the other two groups.
While this comparative study was long in duration, it also showed the speed at which spinal manipulation therapy can “kick in” and lead to a full recovery of patients with neck pain. Another shorter-term study may also shed some light on a possible mechanism of chiropractic care on pain treatment: inflammation resolution. The study randomized 21 patients either to lumbar spinal manipulation or to a control group that received no treatment. Researchers measured the inflammatory markers interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein in the patients’ blood before and after nine chiropractic sessions over two weeks consisting of lower back manipulations.
Policymaking and professional groups are also pursuing research and implementation of nutrition therapy for pain conditions. For example, the Italian Ministry of Instruction sponsored an event entitled Nutraceuticals and Innovative Pharmacology in 2016. The chief recommendations from the symposium were for clinicians to perform nutrition assessments for patients with chronic pain conditions and that there are “formidable and highly promising” benefits associated with including nutrition in personalizing pain medicine.
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