Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression Therapy is an Alternative to the Reliance on Opioids for Lower Back Pain

We have an opioid addiction crisis in our country. Over prescription and over dependence on these drugs has resulted in more than 130 people dying every day in the United States after overdosing on opioids.(1) The misuse of and addiction to opioids is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social welfare and our economy. Opioids include prescription pain relievers (oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine) and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, as well as illegal drugs like heroin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the U.S is $78.5 billion a year. This number is inclusive of the costs for healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.(2)

But what are opioids and why are they so addictive?

Opioids are drugs created from the Opium plant. They have been around in one form or another since 3,400 B.C. when the Sumerians first cultivated the opium poppy plant. They called it the “Joy Plant”. Since discovery, opium has been used for pain, sleep, digestion, coughs, and other ailments.

Seems like a wonder cure, but the problem is opioids are highly addictive. They contain chemicals that release dopamine in the brain. This dopamine makes you feel good and the longer opioids are taken, the more reliant the body becomes. People can even become addicted to opioids when they take the drugs as prescribed. In the 1990s pharmaceutical companies lobbied to reassure the medical community that opioids were not as highly addictive as thought. It worked and healthcare providers began prescribing at higher rates, and it has snowballed into the crisis we face today.

Chiropractic offers an alternative to pain relief without drugs.

As chiropractors, we most often see patients to treat back pain. Back pain is a major culprit for the misuse of opioids. Since chiropractic works to relieve pain throughout the body without drugs or surgery, we are on the front lines of working with patients to break dependence on pain medicine and prescription drugs.

One of the major modalities we use for back pain relief and healing is non-surgical spinal decompression. Spinal decompression works by gently stretching the spine, relieving pressure from the spinal discs. This pressure is what causes pain and is most often associated with bulging or herniated discs. By creating negative pressure in the disc, spinal decompression causes bulging or herniated disks to retract, taking pressure off nerves and other structures in your spine. This in turn, helps promote movement of water, oxygen, and nutrient-rich fluids into the disks so they can heal without drugs or surgery.

In fact, spinal decompression can be a safe and non-invasive alternative to back surgery, giving patients the same or better pain relief without the trauma to the body, downtime and rehab. Also, for patients who have had unsuccessful back surgery, spinal decompression can be an effective treatment to get them out of pain without any use of opioids or other medications.

For patients with lower back pain who have been prescribed opioids, NNC strongly suggests you try spinal decompression, or another non-pharmaceutical modality, first. The success rates of this treatment are extremely positive and states like California are even passing legislation that puts the power of pain management decisions in the hands of the patient. The Opioid Bill (AB 888) requires that prescribing doctors discuss the availability of non-pharmaceutical treatments for pain. This includes referrals to chiropractic.

In a statement, William Updyke, DC and past president of the California Chiropractic Association emphasized the value of the legislation, “AB 888 will require any initial opioid prescription include a full informed consent to provide a much needed level of transparency. Patients deserve to be educated about the dangers of opioids prior to filling a prescription.”(3)

If you or someone you love has been prescribed opioids as a result of lower back pain, consider booking a consultation at NNC first to discuss alternative and safer options that don’t just mask pain, but actually help the body heal.

For help with opioid addiction visit the Opioid Treatment Program Directory to find services in Nevada.


1. CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality. CDC WONDER, Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2018.
2. Florence CS, Zhou C, Luo F, Xu L. The Economic Burden of Prescription Opioid Overdose, Abuse, and Dependence in the United States, 2013. Med Care. 2016;54(10):901-906. doi:10.1097/MLR.0000000000000625.

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