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The Opioid Crisis: What are the Alternatives for Pain Relief?

Aug 29, 2017 03:23PM ● By Pamela Johnson
written by Virginia Alkemper, D.C.

Now that President Trump has declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, more attention than ever is being placed on the use and prescribing of the drugs. During an interview with Poppy Harlow, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta said that this crisis mostly stems from the initial opioid prescriptions, which are “overprescribed” for pain relief. He cited that 80% of the world’s opioid use can be found in America, which has only 5% of the world’s population.
Why do we have such a disproportionate use of pain killers? Our country has become heavily dependent on treating pain with drugs. “Have a headache? Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.”

This old prescription likely helped start the mindset shift away from our great-grandparents’ natural approaches to soothe pain toward the pill-popping mindset of today, reinforced every time we watch TV and see pharmaceutical commercials pushing their drugs to suppress any and all abnormal health symptoms.

Let’s be clear—most pills are just suppressing symptoms and not curing the root cause of a condition. Now we have many choices beyond aspirin to relieve pain for headaches. We can take two Tylenol or just one, even stronger, Aleve or Advil. We are so quick to relieve any pain that most of us never consider the very real side effects of these over-the-counter NSAIDs, particularly with extended use potentially causing gastric ulcers.
With more substantial pain, we are even less likely to consider side effects even when the very real side effect is addiction, sometimes leading to death. You go to your primary care physician, who wants to help you with your pain. But what can be done?

After considering pros and cons of prescribing medication for your condition and particular health history, your doctor might prescribe opioids or refer you to a specialist for consult or physical therapy. But how often does your PCP refer you to an alternative-medicine therapist, such as a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a myofascial-release therapist or a functional-medicine practitioner who uses nutrition as primary treatment? These are specialists with unique skills to relieve pain, oftentimes able to address root causes of pain through a holistic approach, without utilizing toxic drugs or surgical intervention.
The best way to avoid starting an addiction is to avoid initial exposure. Rather than fill that opioid prescription, consult an alternative-medicine therapist who has the skill set to relieve pain therapeutically without drugs or surgery. If you are using opioids, an alternative-medicine therapist may help you reduce your opioid use. If you are addicted to opioids or in recovery while still dealing with chronic pain, consulting one of these specialists who don’t use drugs can help avoid a relapse. I’ve seen it time and time again in my current practice and prior work with a residential recovery center for addicts in Georgia.
Dr. Virginia Alkemper, D.C., moved to Bellingham in 2015, and shortly thereafter opened Pinpoint Chiropractic, which specializes in the low-force and “non-cracking” Activator Methods technique to address spine and extremity complaints. For the past 4 years, she has focused on reducing pain and improving life quality for patients, utilizing chiropractic adjustment, myofascial release, kinesiotape, nutrition and exercise. For more information visit or call 508-937-0444.




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