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Opioid epidemic leads to growing shift toward natural care

The opioid epidemic, discussed during the State of the Union last month, remains a top concern in America. As doctors continue to limit opioid prescriptions, natural medicine is being recognized as a worthy alternative by the mainstream medical community.

Since the epidemic came to light in 2016, several health care and government officials have highlighted chiropractic medicine, acupuncture and massage therapy as powerful and effective treatments for chronic pain.

"These modalities have been part of National University's focus on conservative, evidence-based care for many years," said Joseph Stiefel, MS, EdD, DC, president of National University of Health Sciences (NUHS). "As more Americans discover the risks involved with opioid medication, natural medicine is quickly becoming a first line of treatment."

Other forms of natural medicine are gaining recognition as well. "Hydrotherapy, a modality within naturopathic medicine that uses hot and cold water treatments, is an equally effective tool for pain relief," said Theodore Johnson, Jr., DC, DABCI, NUHS dean of clinics. "Thanks to recent efforts, these treatments could become widely accessible and covered by insurance in the near future."

National University continues to follow efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. Here's a list of some of the major institutions that have rallied around complementary and alternative medicine as a potential solution. 

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The American College of Physicians 
This national organization, made up of about 152,000 internists, internal medicine subspecialists, medical students, residents, and fellows, updated its guidelines for low back pain in February 2017. The organization now recommends non-pharmaceutical therapies first such as acupuncture, spinal manipulation, massage or heat therapy before resorting to opioids. 

The Journal of the American Medical Association
An April 2017 study on low back pain published in this major medical journal finds that spinal manipulative therapy was associated with statistically significant benefits in both pain and function with minimal side effects.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
These nonprofit institutions are considered the nation's premier source of independent, expert advice, which help to shape policy and inform public opinion. The Academies' July 2017 report addressing the opioid epidemic, names acupuncture, spinal manipulation, massage, etc., as powerful tools for pain relief and suggests expanding insurance coverage to include these approaches. 

The Joint Commission
In August 2017, this nonprofit, which accredits nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs, released guidelines that call on hospitals to provide complementary and alternative medicine treatments or educate patients about them.

State Attorney Generals
State attorney generals advocate on behalf of citizens for all civil matters in each state. In September 2017, 35 attorney generals signed a letter urging America's Health Insurance Plans, which represents over 1,000 health insurance companies, to encourage revising coverage policies to prioritize non-opioid pain management options like chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage therapy and physical therapy over opioid prescriptions for the treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain.

The National Institutes of Health
This government agency that provides the largest source of funding for medical research in the world, awarded a $14 million grant in October 2017 to study spinal manipulation as a non-drug approach to chronic back pain. The study is one of the largest ever funded by the National Institutes of Health for back pain.

The White House
In November 2017, the White House released a report on combating the opioid epidemic naming acupuncture and chiropractic as pain strategies proven to reduce the use of opioids and discusses current health insurance barriers.

 

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