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Chiropractors Role in Opioid Use Disorders


Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) has quietly but quickly become the hottest topic in healthcare public policy. More than 1/3 of Americans use opioids and 11.5 million misuse or abuse the drug. (1) Tragically, more than 20,000 people died in 2015 due to an opioid overdose. (2) Over a ten-year period, the opioid death rate quadrupled in direct proportion to the number of prescriptions. (3)

Currently, almost every governmental and healthcare group on the planet is working to combat this problem. Solutions range from prescription limits to equipping all first responders with Narcan™. However, the underappreciated issue (and opportunity for chiropractors) is that opioids are most frequently prescribed for chronic non-cancer pain, primarily spinal pain. The vast majority of spinal pain is mechanical in origin. Prescribing a chemical does not adequately address that problem.

Check out the following video where Dr. Bertelsman recaps the role that chiropractors will play in helping to resolve the opioid crisis.

Fortunately, there is abundant research that shows chiropractic spinal manipulation is very effective at resolving mechanical problems. (Download this ChiroUp evidence synopsis to review those studies.)

Patients who utilize chiropractic co-management have significantly lower rates of opioid use (19% vs 35%) and are 30 times less likely to undergo surgery. (4,5) Health plans realize significant savings by incorporating chiropractic care, with some carriers reporting a 2:1 ROI. (6,7)

Not surprisingly, in the past year chiropractic or spinal manipulation has been endorsed as an alternative to opioids by the FDA, CDC, Joint Commission, American College of Physicians, and 37 State Attorney Generals. (8-12) Earlier this week, a Presidential Commission Report on Opioids echoed those recommendations. (13)

While the opioid crisis is disastrous, there is no greater opportunity for our profession to showcase our effectiveness for managing pain. Policy makers from all backgrounds are desperately searching for help in combating this epidemic and chiropractors offer a valuable contribution toward the prevention and management. Our time to act is now.

If you’re a patient-centric, evidence-based chiropractor looking to provide better care and grow your practice you know the recipe for success has 2 fundamentals:

First and foremost, provide a service that patients want to buy rather than one you need to sell. Deliver the finest care available. There’s a big difference between treating someone and delivering best practice care. This means keeping up with and employing best practices for every patient, every visit. Establishing a reputation of excellence allows you to earn trust and build relationships that are the key for natural growth.

And number 2, develop a repeatable system to spread your message of excellence to the people who matter- specifically the public, patients, and MD’s.

The best news is that ChiroUp has already built a simple system that helps you automate these processes to improve your clinical outcomes, enhance patient compliance, generate automatic Google reviews and boost MD referrals.

One of ChiroUp’s most powerful tools is the ability to automatically collect online Google reviews from your most satisfied patients- pushing even more new patients into your office. Plus, you’ll have access to professionally written newsletters and social media blurbs, and ChiroUp can even automate those posting for you so you’ll never miss the opportunity to be seen. And you’ll love our integrated system that helps you communicate & market your positive outcomes to medical doctors. Tools like a PCP database, referral tracking, outcomes assessment, monthly MD newsletters, and all of the time-tested strategies to changes attitudes and referral patterns.

ChiroUp subscribers are a network of like-minded evidence-based providers who are working together to advance our profession while sharing some incredible resources. If you’re not already a member- change that right now. Click on the link below to start your 14-day free trial today.


1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2017. Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Table 1.28A and 1.28B. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2016/NSDUH-DetTabs-2016.pdf, accessed on October 26, 2017.

2. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey

3. Paulozzi MD, Jones PharmD, et al. Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers – United State, 1999-2008. Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2011:60:5.

4. Whedon J. Association between Utilization of Chiropractic Services and Use of Prescription Opioids among Patients with Low Back Pain. Presented ahead of print at the National Press Club in Washington DC on March 14, 2017. Accessed online at http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.cocsa.org/resource/resmgr/docs/NH_Opioids_Whedon.pdf on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 16-4984, NSDUH Series H-51). Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/

5. Benjamin J. Keeney , Ph.D., et al. Early Predictors of Lumbar Spine Surgery After Occupational Back Injury. SPINE Volume 38, Number 11, pp 953–964

6. Feldman V, Return on investment analysis of Optum offerings — assumes Network/UM/Claims services; Optum Book of Business Analytics 2013. Analysis as of 12/8/2014.

7. Liliedahl RL, Finch MD, Axene DV, Goertz CM. Cost of care for common back pain conditions initiated with a chiropractic doctor vs medical doctor/ doctor of osteopathy as first line physician: experience of one Tennessee-based general health insurer. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2010;33:640–643.

8. FDA Education Blueprint for Health Care Providers Involved in the Management or Support of Patients with Pain. May 2017. Accessed on May 12, 2017

9. Dowell D, Haegerich TM, Chou R. CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain- United States, 2016. MMWR Recom Rep 2016;65(No. RR-1):1–49.

10. The Official Newsletter of The Joint Commission. Joint Commission Enhances Pain Assessment and Management Requirements for Accredited Hospitals. July 2017 Volume 37 Number 7. Ahead of print in 2018 Comprehensive Accreditation Manual for Hospitals.

11. Joint Commission Online. Revision to Pain Management Standards. http://www.jointcommission.org/assets/1/23/jconline_november_12_14.pdf

12. Attorney General Janet Mills Joins 37 States, Territories in Fight against Opioid Incentives. Accessed 9/19/17 from http://www. maine.gov/ag/news/article. shtml?id=766715

13. The Presidents Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images/Final_Report_Draft_11-3-2017.pdf


About the Author

Dr. Tim Bertelsman

Dr. Tim Bertelsman


Dr. Tim Bertelsman graduated with honors from Logan College of Chiropractic and has been practicing in Belleville, IL since 1992. He has lectured nationally on various clinical and business topics and has been published extensively. He has served in several leadership positions within the Illinois Chiropractic Society and currently serves as President of the executive board.

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