If pain is communicated primarily through the nervous system, and chiropractic’s main focus is to restore the nervous system to optimal functioning, it should be clear why chiropractic care can be a very effective way to treat pain even though pain relief is not chiropractic’s main focus. Yes, most people initially seek chiropractic care for treatment of pain. Yes, many chiropractors advertise treatment of pain, and indeed, many pain problems are resolved by chiropractic care. But fundamentally chiropractic is not a pain-treating modality. What chiropractors do is restore proper motion or position to the bones of the back and neck. This removes interference to nerves, restores proper joint function, and decreases muscle spasm along with a whole host of other benefits. One of the side effects of these benefits is the reduction or elimination of pain. In essence, chiropractic treats pain without trying to.
When you go to conventional medical doctors for treatment of pain, what choices will they offer you? Drugs or surgery for the most part, with the occasional advice to rest the affected area in the case of sprains or strains. But what are most drugs designed to do? To stop pain receptors from doing their job by intersecting chemically somewhere in the cycle of pain creation that I described above. There are opiates such as morphine and heroin, salicylates such as aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as well as a range of medications designed to mimic the body’s natural pain suppressors. But the drug companies have yet to come up with a medication that acts exactly the same way as the body’s natural pain-suppressing chemicals. The drugs we have are gross imitations of what the body provides, and unfortunately these gross imitations often come with serious side effects, especially when used over a long period of time. For instance, every year in the United States 76,000 people are hospitalized and 16,500 people die directly as a result of taking NSAIDs, which have been linked to internal bleeding and digestive problems. Aspirin has long been known to affect the stomach negatively, and morphine, heroin, and the other opiates bring with them a strong risk of addiction.
Conventional medicine falters even more when it comes to the treatment of chronic or long-lasting pain. Most of chronic pain is associated either with terminal illness, such as cancer pain, or more often with neuromusculoskeletal problems, including back pain, neck pain, the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome, or the joint pain of arthritis. Treating chronic pain with drugs or surgery is all too frequently ineffective, or worse— it can cause more injury than the original complaint. Only a few years ago, bed rest and anti-inflammatory medication were the standard medical prescriptions for back pain. But now research has demonstrated that this approach causes more disability.
The key to true recovery is restoration of function. The best way to alleviate back pain is to get the patient moving, which helps to restore normal functioning to the bones, muscles, and connective tissue. That’s basically the approach chiropractic has used for decades; however, the functioning that chiropractic wants to restore is much more subtle than most conventional medical doctors would recognize. When pain in the neuromusculoskeletal system is addressed through chiropractic, which focuses on restoring function rather than treating pain, the pain erases or disappears with no drugs or surgery required.
To read more about how chiropractic succeeds where “treatment” of pain fails, check out Dr. Lenarz’s book The Chiropractic Way, available on Amazon.