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Chiropractic and Opioid Use in the Armed Forces


Our active-duty service members push their bodies to the brink when fighting for our country, it comes as no surprise that low back pain is one of the most likely conditions to interrupt combat duty. Typical medical interventions for low back pain in the VA include NSAIDs, physical therapy, spinal fusions, steroid injections, and opioids. Up to 87% of veterans are prescribed opioids for moderate/severe pain. The excessive number of opioids being prescribed to service members feed into the ongoing US opioid crisis creating an urgent need to evaluate for alternative low-risk non-pharmacological treatments.

In 2004 the military started incorporating chiropractic care as part of a comprehensive approach to veteran healthcare and has expanded efforts each year since. Chiropractic care is already integrated into more than half of military treatment facilities across the US, and spinal manipulation is recommended as a first line of treatment for pain! Apart from the reduction of pain and improved function in veteran patients with musculoskeletal conditions, chiropractic care has had an impact on the long-term use of opioids. In private sectors, it has been shown that an increase of chiropractic care is correlated with a decrease in opioid use. Approximately 1/3 of veterans under chiropractic care for musculoskeletal pain are also prescribed opioids. After 6 weeks of care prescription use reduced by 27%, and by 12 weeks prescription use was reduced by an additional 27%. This suggests that chiropractic care may one day be a substitute for opioid use!




Goertz CM; Long CR; Vining RD; Pohlman KA; Walter J; Coulter I;. (n.d.). Effect of Usual Medical Care Plus Chiropractic Care vs Usual Medical Care Alone on Pain and Disability Among US Service Members With Low Back Pain: A Comparative Effectiveness Clinical Trial. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30646047/

Lisi AJ; Corcoran KL; DeRycke EC; Bastian LA; Becker WC; Edmond SN; Goertz CM; Goulet JL; Haskell SG; Higgins DM; Kawecki T; Kerns RD; Mattocks K; Ramsey C; Ruser CB; Brandt CA;. (n.d.). Opioid Use Among Veterans of Recent Wars Receiving Veterans Affairs Chiropractic Care. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30203014/

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