Overcoming the Opioid Crisis: The Essential Role of Manual Therapies
February 6, 2019
Dr. Serola

The opioid crisis has rightfully remained a national hot topic and manual therapies, provided by chiropractors and physical therapists alike, continue to deliver safer, opioid alternative treatment plans to patients battling chronic pain.

Reducing Risks

Side effects of prescription opioids have been fatal, and the statistics are glaringly undeniable. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 399,000 people died from an opioid overdose between 1997-2017 in the United States alone. Further, at least half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths reportedly involved a prescribed opioid.

Drugs not only put patients at risk for dependency, but they can also be ineffective, damaging to organs and become a main cause of additional pain and injury. In fact, studies have shown that since opioids impact the central nervous system, causing dizziness and reduced alertness, there is an increased risk for falls and fractures.

While opioids are often recommended for acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain, conservative care solutions are frequently overlooked. Chiropractors have recently benefited from a decrease in malpractice insurance rates, which makes a solid case for manual therapies providing a safer solution. There is no better time than right now to default to manual therapies as a first step in pain management.

Correcting Chronic Pain

While the medical approach is to mask pain by prescribing various levels of pain medications, manual therapy focuses on correcting the cause of pain. In the musculoskeletal system, most pain relief comes through simply increasing circulation. Circulation normalizes muscles and tissue by flushing toxins and supplying fresh oxygen. Fortunately for patients, physical therapists and chiropractors have an arsenal of methods in which to achieve this. Many tactics, such as massage, exercise, stretching, acupuncture, etc. can increase circulation and provide relief.

Ultimately, the goal is to heal pain and not just to relieve it. To heal many musculoskeletal diseases, it’s crucial to concentrate on stabilizing the core structure, the sacroiliac joint (SIJ). The best way to do this is through pelvic alignment which includes exercises, chiropractic adjustments, utilizing a Serola Sacroiliac Belt and Supine Pelvic blocking.

Another key is to better educate patients of techniques they can practice to take pain management into their own hands. Such strategies can be found in my previous blog, Dos & Don’ts for the Sacroiliac Joint. This combination of manual therapies and patient education will be a powerful force in fighting the opioid crisis.


The commitment of the medical community coupled with ongoing public interest in addressing the opioid epidemic is inspiring. Conservative care along with the accountability of both patients and prescribers can undoubtedly make a difference.

To read more about opioid alternative treatments, please see my article on Rehab Principles. For more information on the opioid epidemic and prevention, visit https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/index.html

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