The Truth About Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back and neck pain are very common.  In fact, research indicates that as many as 30% of people suffering their first episode of low back pain will not have any improvement by 3 months, and 1 in 7 will become worse. (1)  Further, at one-year 1/3 of people will still have intermittent or persistent pain of a moderate intensity, 1 in 5 will have substantial activity limitations, and 1 in 7 still have severe pain (2)  One third will continue to experience low back pain 15 years on!

Opioids or narcotics (e.g. Codeine, Oxycontin, Morphine, Norspan) were once hailed as a pill solution for chronic back pain… however the costs to healthcare and the risks to patients have been significant.  Alternative options and co-treatment approaches are desperately needed.

In a research analysis of 62,000 patients in 6 studies of chiropractic use and opioid prescription, the use of chiropractic care ranged from 11.3% to 51.3%.  Patients who visited a chiropractor for their musculoskeletal pain issues were 49% less likely to receive a prescription for an opioid than those who went to other healthcare provider.(3,4) Patients using ongoing chiropractic care to manage their chronic low-back and neck pain told researchers that their pain would be higher without such chiropractic care. Further, they were willing to pay for chiropractic care to maintain their mild pain levels. (5)

In other research, 290 patients with neck and low back pain presenting to 97 chiropractic clinics in the Netherlands and Belgium were followed for 12 months.  Most patients had significant improvements early on in treatment.  At 6 months follow-up, nearly 90% had an average pain reduction of 68%.  At 12 months the improvements were maintained with a majority of patients having either mild persistent pain or mild intermittent pain.  Only a minority developed chronic severe pain. (6)

Our readers will also recall from a previous newsletter that Chiropractic maintenance care was found to be more effective than symptom guided treatment (ie .only treating pain when present) for managing low back pain.(7)

THE TAKE HOME MESSAGE: CHRONIC BACK AND NECK PAIN IS COMMON AND CAN BE DEBILITATING.  TO REDUCE THE SEVERITY OF YOUR PAIN, AND THE USE OF MEDICATION, VISIT YOUR CHIROPRACTOR EARLY AND CONSIDER MAINTENANCE CARE.

  1. Jayson et al: Why does acute back pain become chronic? Spine;1997 May 15;22(10): 1053-6
  2. Von Korff: The Course of Back Pain in Primary Care, Spine;1996 Dec 15;(21(24):2833-2837
  3. Lowry F: Chiropractic Care Tied to Significant Reduction in Opioid Scripts. Medscape Pub Mar 19, 2019
  4. Whedon et al: Association Between Utilization of Chiropractic Services for Treatment of LBP and use of Prescription Opioids J. Alt Compl Med 2018 Feb 22
  5. Herman et al: Patient Willingness to pay (WTP) for reductions in chronic low back pain and chronic neck pain J Pain 2019 May 6
  6. Ailliet et al:  Long term Trajectories of Patients with Neck pain and low back pain presenting to chiropractic care:  A Latent Class Growth Analysis. Eur J Pain. 2017 Sep 4
  7. Eklund et al: The Nordic Maintenance Care program: Effectiveness of chiropractic maintenance care versus symptom-guided treatment for recurrent and persistent low back pain‚ÄĒA pragmatic randomized controlled trial Plos One 2018 Sept 12
  8. Stratch et al: The Effect of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets on Pain in Individuals with Knee Osteoarthritis. Pain Medicine 2019 Mar 13