Patient care satisfaction, evidence-based research, and validation from mainstream healthcare journals offer solid reasons to see a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) Those same reasons are leading many who care deeply about delivering next-level patient care to earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree.
About 22 million Americans visit chiropractors annually, seeking pain relief from musculoskeletal conditions and diseases. Up to 80% of the U.S. population will likely experience back pain at some point in their lives.
Chiropractors first seek to understand the core problem underlying a patient’s condition and, where indicated, proceed with a manual therapy approach that will often include spinal adjustment and extremity manipulation to improve joint function and provide pain relief.
In some cases, it is believed that surgery, the use of opioids for pain, or both, are the only options for those suffering from back or neck issues.
Opioids have long had a role in the treatment of pain, but the fact that there are certain inherent risks present in their use remains troubling.
With outcomes research (ACP; JAMA; European Spine Journal) demonstrating the effectiveness of less invasive, conservative interventions, the inclusion of non-pharmacological approaches for the treatment of back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions has now become part of today’s guideline-based approach for pain management.
These guidelines recommending conservative care first are another reason to earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from an accredited, well-established chiropractic college.
Dr. Jon Petrick, who earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree 20-plus years ago, says, “I’m finding that our patients are extremely intelligent, and they’re aware of their options. Many of them say, “Wait a second, why would I take that med when you can manage my pain naturally?”
(Learn more about Dr. Petrick in this Q&A article.)
A key focus in the curriculum of chiropractic education programs is preparing students to identify and manage those patients most likely to respond to conservative manual adjustments or manipulation, and not only help to address pain but to possibly reduce the need for opioids or surgery.
A crucial part of chiropractic education is training students to identify potential pathology and contraindications to manual therapy and recommend appropriate referral and co-management of many health conditions.
The value of prescribed pain medication is not in question and can be highly effective for short-term, post-surgical pain. There are, however, risks to consider.
Recent research has found that one day of opioid usage carried a 6% chance of being on opioids one year later. After eight days of use, that chance increased to 13.5%, and after 31 days of use, the chance spiked to nearly 30%.
“The mission of the doctor of chiropractic is to improve movement, reduce pain, and ensure proper spine and extremity function,” says Dr. Mark Pfeffer, Dr. Mark Pfefer, a chiropractor, and the Director of Research at Cleveland University-Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas.
“The more conservative approach to care offered by chiropractors continues to be a viable option to reduce the reliance on opioids for pain,” he says. “Researchers are just now starting to take notice of this.”
Recent research, Pfefer notes, has demonstrated that those who used chiropractic had a 64% lower chance of receiving an opioid prescription than non-chiropractic users. The adjusted likelihood of filling a prescription for an opioid was 55% lower among recipients of chiropractic care.
Further, those who saw a chiropractor within the first months of diagnosis saw an even greater risk reduction than those on their first visit following the acute phase. There is other emerging evidence in reducing opioid use associated with chiropractic care.
“The evidence supports that chiropractic care plays a role in reducing opioid use for back pain, neck pain, headaches, and other musculoskeletal pain,” Pfefer says. “These are conditions where most medical practitioners would agree that opioids should be used only sparingly or not at all. If a trial of chiropractic care results in a decreased reliance on opioid use, I think that should be explored, especially considering that chiropractic is safe and cost-effective.”
A 2017 JAMA systematic review of spinal manipulative therapy for low back pain found that spinal manipulative therapy has a “statistically significant association” with improvements in both pain and function. Additionally, there were no serious adverse effects associated with spinal manipulation.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, chiropractic and health sciences university in Overland Park, Kansas, within the Kansas City metro area.
Our chiropractic history started in 1922. Today, more than 11,000 alumni have earned their Doctor of Chiropractic degree through the CUKC College of Chiropractic.
Learn more about our rigorous educational curriculum (more than 4,200 clock hours over 3.5 years) here.
Points of distinction of our D.C. program:
To learn more about a Doctor of Chiropractic degree program and the career it delivers, request information today and receive our free eBook: Your Complete Guide to the Chiropractic Profession.