Chiropractic Care and the Opioid Epidemic: A Conservative Approach to Care

It’s impossible to watch the news without seeing some reference to the opioid epidemic. It’s a health and addiction crisis that has become a major problem. The primary culprit in the epidemic is a failure by the medical community to recognize the highly addictive nature of opioids and the harm they could do if prescribed too often.

How Big a Problem Are Opioids?

What does it mean when people refer to opioid addiction as a crisis? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), up to 25% of people who are prescribed opioids for pain struggle with addiction to their medication.

The CDC’s data also shows that deaths from opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999. In 2014 alone, more than 14,000 people died of opioid overdoses. Even more alarming is the number of people who abuse opioids, which the CDC estimates at two million.

Is Addiction the Only Risk with Opioids?

Reading these numbers, you might think that addiction is the biggest risk associated with use of opioid drugs. However, that’s not true – there’s another risk that should concern both doctors and patients.
Opioid drug use may trick patients with chronic pain into thinking that their condition is not serious – or that things are improving even when they aren’t. The false sense of confidence engendered by the drugs may lead patients to take risks that can lead to further damage.

The Value of a Non-Drug Approach to Pain

One reason that the opioid epidemic has reached the level of a national health crisis is that, for some doctors, prescribing pain medication was seen as the first line of defense against pain. Thanks to the issue with opioids, there’s a new respect for a non-drug approach to pain management.
As of 2017, the American College of Physicians changed its guidelines for the treatment of both chronic and acute low back pain to recommend non-invasive, non-drug therapies be used before pain medication. If those therapies don’t work, they recommend anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and muscle relaxants be tried before opioids.

The CDC has followed suit, creating a new set of standards for prescribing opioids and recommending non-drug therapies be tried first.

The Benefits of Conservative Care

Another way of looking at these changes in the way opioid drugs are prescribed is to say that the medical community at large is finally catching up to what chiropractors have known all along. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) asks both patients and providers to exhaust all conservative forms of pain management before considering opioid drugs.

The ACA’s policy statement regarding opioids, adopted in 2016, supports:

  • The investigation and use of non-pharmacologic interventions for pain in every healthcare setting and patient population.
  • The promotion of evidence-based non-pharmacologic pain therapies for pain management, within best practice models designed to protect patients.
  • Improved access to providers of non-pharmacologic therapies for all patients.
  • A system of interprofessional training to improve the efficacy and efficiency of pain management teams.
  • Public health campaigns to increase awareness of drug-free treatment options for chronic and acute pain.

These five statements are intended to educate both patients and providers about alternatives to opioid prescriptions for pain management.

Can Dehydration Cause Back Pain?

The human body needs water to survive. In fact, dehydration can kill you far more quickly than starvation. You might know that already – but did you know that not drinking enough water can contribute to back pain?

The most commonly-known symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, dizziness, dry skin and headaches, but the amount of water you drink can also have a direct effect on your spine. Here’s what you need to know.

Water and Your Spine

Your spine is made up of interlocking vertebrae that run from your neck down to the coccyx, which is sometimes referred to as the tailbone. The vertebrae protect your spinal cord. The vertebrae are separated from one another by intervertebral discs.

Each one of your intervertebral discs consists of two parts:

  1. A tough outer layer called the annulus
  2. A jelly-like center called the nucleus

The nucleus relies upon the water you take in to protect your spine. If you don’t drink enough and become dehydrated, the discs shrink and offer your spine less protection than they would if you were fully hydrated.

Even when you are drinking enough water to stay hydrated, your spine shrinks slightly throughout the day. When you go to bed at night, you are between ¼ and ½ an inch shorter than you are when you first wake up. That’s because your discs release and absorb water throughout the day in response to things like gravity and movement.

If you are dehydrated, then your intervertebral discs won’t be able to absorb the water you need while you sleep. When your vertebrae aren’t properly cushioned by the discs, the result can be chronic back pain.

How to Tell If You’re Dehydrated

Even people who don’t experience typical symptoms of dehydration may not be getting enough water. Here’s a simple test to see if you are dehydrated.

Pinch a small amount of skin on the back of your hand. Hold it for a moment and then, release it. If your skin moves back into place immediately, you are not dehydrated. If the pinched area stays pinched and only slowly returns to normal, it means that you’re dehydrated.

You’ve probably heard that you should drink eight glasses of water per day. A better rule of thumb is to divide your body weight by two to figure out how many ounces of water you need. If you weight 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water. You should drink extra water if:

  • The temperature is very high or you’re out in the sun
  • You’re engaged in manual labor or intense exercise
  • You’re pregnant or nursing
  • You have a fever or any virus that causes vomiting or diarrhea

At first, you may need to remind yourself to drink water during the day. Once you grow accustomed to the feeling of being well-hydrated, your body will crave water and drinking it will be second nature.


Drinking enough water will ensure that your discs have what they need to cushion your vertebrae and protect your spine. It may not eliminate back pain, but if dehydration has been contributing to your back pain, you should experience some relief.

The Drug-Free Migraine Treatment You Don’t Know About

Migraine headaches are very common. In fact, they affect 38 million people in the United States alone. 13% of all adults suffer from migraines and of those, between two and three million get chronic migraines. It’s no wonder that many people rely on prescription migraine medications to relieve their symptoms.

The problem with the most commonly-prescribed medications is that they cause some unpleasant side effects. The side effects may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Depression
  • Addiction

Worst of all, some of the migraine medications on the market can actually cause headaches, which is the last thing that anybody who suffers from chronic migraine headaches needs.

The good news is that there may be a way to get relief from migraine headaches without relying on medication: chiropractic care.

Research Shows That Chiropractic Care Can Relieve Migraine Symptoms

It’s easy to make a claim that a particular treatment or medication can relieve symptoms. What’s not so easy is to back the claim up with research. In the case of chiropractic care and migraine symptoms, there is research available to support the idea that getting spinal adjustments can relieve migraines.

One study looked at the impact of chiropractic treatment on 127 volunteers between the ages of 10 and 70. The people in the study group were given spinal manipulative treatments and asked to keep a standard headache diary over a six-month period.

At the end of the study, the volunteers in the study group experienced a greater reduction in their migraine symptoms than those in the control group. 22% experienced a 90% reduction in the severity of their symptoms, while another 50% reported significant improvements.

The researchers concluded that there was ample reason to believe that receiving regular chiropractic adjustments could provide relief to migraine sufferers.

Another, smaller study looked at the effect of spinal manipulation and thoracic massage on ten volunteers who had migraine headaches. The treatments were given when the subjects were experiencing a migraine.

The results were that the volunteers reported that the intensity of their migraine symptoms had been significantly reduced by the treatment. The mean pain reduction was 68.77% with a margin of error of 18.56%. There were no reported side effects and the patients were satisfied with the treatments they received.

The small size of this study means that additional studies and research are needed. But, there is certainly reason to be optimistic that a combination of massage and chiropractic adjustments can help to alleviate migraine symptoms.

In addition to the research studies we’ve mentioned there are a number of individual case studies that support the use of chiropractic treatments to treat migraines. One looked at the treatment of a 39-year old woman who had experienced migraines since she was 10 years old. She experienced an immediate improvement that was then sustained with additional treatments over a four-month period.


Migraine headaches can be debilitating to the people who have them. Chiropractic adjustments, alone or in combination with spinal massage, can provide relief in both the short and long term.

1 Thing You Probably Don’t Know About Chiropractors

There are a lot of misconceptions about chiropractors. That’s partly because while we all visit doctors, not everybody goes to a chiropractor. It’s also because there’s still some effort on the part of the medical establishment to discredit chiropractors and other alternative caregivers.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that if you go to the chiropractor once, you’ll need to keep going on a regular basis. The truth is (of course) more complex than that. Chiropractic care can help you in acute, short-term situations and in the long-term to maintain proper alignment and protect your spine.

Short-Term Chiropractic Care

Let’s start with short-term care for acute injuries and problems. There are many circumstances that might create a need for the kind of immediate pain relief you can get from a chiropractor. These include:

  • A sports-related injury
  • An automobile accident
  • Lifting a heavy object without taking the proper precautions
  • A hard fall or awkward landing

When one of these things occurs, you may find that you have pain that can’t be resolved with over-the-counter medications or traditional medical treatments.

Getting a chiropractic adjustment (or several) over a short period can provide immediate relief and ultimately, resolve the issue without the need for addictive pain medications or invasive surgery. In many such cases, only a few adjustments are required to get the desired result.

If you’re experiencing acute pain or if you have received an injury that has impacted your ability to do the things you love, then seeing a chiropractor can help you get back to normal.

Long-Term Chiropractic Care

You don’t need to have experienced an acute injury to benefit from visiting a chiropractor and getting regular adjustments. The truth is that there are some people who make chiropractic adjustments part of their regular wellness regimen.

People who see a chiropractor regularly include professional athletes. They understand that their body’s performance is linked to keeping all bodily systems, including their skeletal, nervous, and respiratory systems, in good working order. The long-term ben fits of chiropractic care are well documented. The other group of people who can benefit from long-term chiropractic care are those who experience
chronic pain. Studies have shown that chiropractic care is one of the most effective ways of managing lower back pain. In fact, it can be more effective – and more cost-effective – than treatment by a physician.

Likewise, there have been studies that concluded that patients with fibromyalgia who received chiropractic adjustments experienced improved cervical and lumbar ranges of motion and decreased pain.

Protecting your spine is important to your overall health and long-term chiropractic care can minimize your chances of injury as you age.

The Bottom Line

If you want to be in good health, you must be sure to take preventive measures. You probably go to the doctor once a year for a check-up and to the dentist twice a year for cleanings. Getting regular chiropractic adjustments can be a good way to keep your spine healthy and your entire body in alignment.

5 Essential Nutrients to Keep Your Spine Healthy

There’s no denying that we are what we eat. We learned that saying from early childhood, but we sometimes forget it as adults. We opt for what’s convenient over what our bodies need. Poor nutrition can take a toll on our bodies, including our spines.

The solution is to ensure that your diet allows you to get the proper nutrients to keep your back strong and healthy. Here are five essential nutrients to add to your diet.

#1: Calcium

You probably already know that calcium plays an important role in building and strengthening bones. Calcium deficiency is one of the key drivers of age-related bone loss and osteoporosis. Some of the foods that are rich sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, and canned fish that includes edible bones. (Sardines are a good example.)

#2: Magnesium

Like calcium, magnesium is a mineral that helps to strengthen bones. In fact, between 50% and 60% of the magnesium in your body is found in your bones. Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common mineral deficiencies among Americans and can be a contributing factor in bone loss, heart disease, and other health issues. A study from 2013 found that magnesium supplementation reduced back pain and improved lumbar spine range of motion.

The average diet is too low in magnesium. To get what you need, try adding almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, and dark chocolate to your diet.

#3: Vitamin D

Vitamin D is sometimes called the sunshine vitamin because one of our best sources of it is exposure to direct sunlight. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and it also plays a key role in building and strengthening collagen.

People who aren’t sensitive to UV rays can get the Vitamin D they need by spending approximately 20 minutes a day in the sun. There are not very many foods that are good sources of Vitamin D, although it is possible to find Vitamin D-enriched milk. Otherwise, take a nutritional supplement.

#4: Phosphorus

Phosphorus is a mineral whose importance is sometimes overlooked, but it works with calcium to help build bones and improve bone density as we age. Both men and women need to be certain to get sufficient phosphorus in their diets.

The best dietary sources of phosphorus are Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and cheese.

#5: Healthy fats

It can be difficult to sort through the conflicting information about dietary fat. Eating too much saturated fat can be dangerous and may contribute to heart disease. However, eating healthy fat, specifically Omega-3 fatty acid, is essential for bone health. Studies have found that Omega-3 prevents demineralization of bones as we age. It’s important to take care of your spine…

Spinal health is important at any age, but it’s essential to protect your spine as you get older. While diet alone may not be enough, it is undeniable that eating a diet rich in the five minerals we have listed here will ensure that your body has the essential nutrients it needs to prevent bone loss and demineralization and minimize the risks of spinal injuries.

Suffering From Back Pain? Avoid These Four Exercises

Back pain is either chronic, meaning that you wake up every day in pain, or you move wrong and end up hurting seemingly out of the blue. Either way, you’re told to exercise, as that will alleviate the pain. While this works – somewhat – there are some exercises that you just shouldn’t do, as they put too much pressure on your back. They’ll actually make your pain worse. Here are the four worst offenders, as well as some good alternatives.

1) Sit Ups

Traditional sit-ups will strengthen your core muscles, especially those in your abdomen. Ideally, they’ll make your back better, since the front muscles will add support. However, they need to be avoided, since they put pressure on your spine and will make your back pain much worse.

The Alternative: Partial Crunches

Partial crunches are designed to strengthen your abdominal muscles but in a back-friendly way. Start by laying on your back with both feet flat on the floor and your knees bent, facing the ceiling. Place your hands behind your neck in order to give it some support. Then, raise your shoulders off of the floor by
tightening your abdominal muscles. Do not use your arms. Lower yourself back down and repeat.

2) Superman Back Extensions

This exercise involves laying flat on the floor face down while lifting your arms and legs up. It looks impressive, especially if you can hold it for a period of time. The problem is that it stresses your lower back.

The Alternative: The Bird-Dog

This exercises actually strengthens your lower back without stressing it. Start out on your hands and knees and then extend one leg behind you to hip level. Raise the opposite arm to shoulder level at the same time. Use your abdominal muscles, but don’t tilt your pelvis. Hold this position for a brief count
and then repeat on the other side.

3) Standing Toe Touches

This is a common stretching exercise that will help your hamstrings. There are few things more painful than a tight or pulled hamstring, except for an injured back. That’s what you may end up with if you attempt this stretch when you have a history of back pain.

The Alternative: Stretches With a Towel

For this stretch, start out on your back and bend one knee. Place a towel around the foot of your extended leg. Straighten your knee as you use the towel to pull that leg up off of the floor. Hold the position for 20 seconds before repeating on the other side. Your back should remain flat on the floor the entire time.

4) Double Leg Lifts

We’ve already gone over how a strong core can keep back pain at bay. However, if you do double leg lifts, you risk injuring your lower back.

The Alternative: One Leg Lifts

Place yourself in the same position as for the towel stretches. Lift one straight up and hold it in place. Repeat with the other leg, once again, keeping your back flat on the floor. If you have any questions on these exercises, make an appointment to see your local chiropractor.

Additional Chiropractic Therapies That Can Lead To a Pain-Free Life

Have you ever been to a chiropractor for an adjustment, felt great for the rest of that day, only to wake up in pain again the next morning? You aren’t alone. Thankfully, there are some ways to make those adjustments last longer, although they involve more than just a quick fix.

Instant gratification might make you feel better right away, but the results won’t last for very long. In order to get results that last, you’ll need to take advantage of some of the therapies offered by your local chiropractor in addition to your adjustment. It’s all about your health – so you need to make the
decision to choose the best therapies, not the ones with the fastest results.

It’s All about Spinal Health

Chiropractors believe that the spine is the source of many people’s misery. To put it a different way, a spine that’s out of alignment is the root of their pain. These misalignments interfere with the way that the brain and body communicate. Since the spine contains a large number of nerves, thanks to the
spinal cord, any misalignment can throw your entire system out of balance. All that it takes is one small injury, a tight muscle, a stretched ligament, or a damaged vertebra and you’re in quite a bit of pain. The back is quite complex!

This is why chiropractors first look at the spine as a way of alleviating your pain. In most cases, an adjustment can bring about instant relief. With that said, this instant relief doesn’t always translate into weeks of being pain-free. It’s only too easy to reinjure that area since it’s already weakened. Adding
therapy, such as the ones described below, to help support and hold the adjustment longer will allow for longer lasting results, actually fixing your problem.

Traction Therapy

Did you know that the posture and position of your head can put some stress on your nervous system? This can lead to headaches, plus neck and back pain. Traction therapy teaches you how to position your head and keep it that way correctly. The cervical curve will adjust over time as the therapy persists, leaving you with less pain and better posture.

At-Home Therapy

While some therapies, such as traction therapy, need to be done in a chiropractor’s office under proper supervision, others can be done at home. Your chiropractor can give you a list of instructions, complete with images so that you do everything correctly. These therapies include core strengthening. Your core are muscles consist of your pelvic floor, diaphragm, transverse abdominals, and your deep back muscles.

The muscles in your core are responsible for holding you upright and keeping your posture correct. You’ll need to exercise every muscle in your core – the front, back, and sides – in order to make everything stronger. This is definitely something that you can do at home because you’re less likely to injure yourself in the process.

Visiting a chiropractor can lead to instant pain relief thanks to an adjustment, but if you truly want results that will last, you need to ask your chiropractor about these additional treatments.

Chiropractors Can Help Improve Range of Motion

It’s easy to take your flexibility and overall agility for granted. That is until you find that you can no longer bend over or move like you used to. As people age, they get less and less flexible. Even people who work out (and stretch) regularly find that some movements become more difficult. Thankfully, there’s a solution to these range of motions issues – your local chiropractor.

Range Of Motion Issues and Causes

Many range of motion problems stem from a direct cause. In some cases, it’s simple aging. The aging process can make your muscles and ligaments a bit stiffer, making injuries more likely. You’ll also lose some of your flexibility. Degenerative conditions can appear seemingly out of nowhere, causing a number of movement problems. Other times, these issues present themselves after an injury. It makes sense that you’d lose your range of motion after hurting your back or spraining an ankle. Once the injury heals, you’ll still have some stiffness that can cause problems. Finally, poor exercise habits can lead to a range of motion issue. Without a standard exercise regimen of stretching, walking, or bicycling (or whatever your favorite exercises consist of), your muscles and joints won’t be used to movement. This can lead to a number of flexibility problems, including the inability to handle daily activities.

Problems Performing Daily Habits

There are certain habits that you do every day. These include brushing your teeth, grooming your hair, and even getting dressed in the morning. When you have range of motion issues, even tying your shoes can be difficult. The problems can stem from issues with your neck, lumbar spine, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and even hips. When you can’t move your joints freely, you find yourself unable to tackle even the smallest of these daily tasks. You might have some pain as well, meaning that when you bend over to go to move your shoulder, you’ll begin to hurt. This can lead to reliance on over the counter painkillers just to get through the day. In most cases, issues with the spine lead to many of their daily mobility problems.

The Role of Your Spine

Most people don’t realize that many of their range of motion issues stem from problems with their spines. They feel pain their shoulder and think “oh, my shoulder hurts. I must have injured it.” However, the spine is responsible. Issues with the spine can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, headaches, and many other joint-related problems. All that it takes is for part of your spine to get out of alignment, and you’ll be left with pain and flexibility problems. Thankfully, there’s a solution.

See Your Local Chiropractor

Your local chiropractor can solve many of your flexibility issues and greatly reduce your pain levels, all without resorting to medications. After conducting a thorough examination, your chiropractor will realign your spine, giving you back the flexibility that you seek. You’ll be able to perform your daily activities once again.

Chiropractic Care and Migraine Relief

Migraine headaches are debilitating. They can lead to symptoms of a pounding headache, dizziness, nausea, and the inability to think clearly. Some migraine sufferers find it hard to put words on a page, make a decision, or do much other than linger in a dark room until the pain goes away. In other words, a migraine can really ruin your day. Although relief can sometimes be found in certain medications or lifestyle changes, one of the best things that you can do is see a chiropractor. Yes, many chiropractors are able to do what even the strongest pain medication cannot – stop your migraine in its tracks.

What Exactly Is A Migraine?

You may have been suffering from migraines for years without realizing what they really are. You probably just refer them as “bad headaches” or even think that you have a tension headache instead. The main difference is that a tension headache encompasses the whole head. You’ll feel as though your head is in a vice. A migraine only affects one side at a time. You might have pain on the left side of your head one day, and then a repeat of that same intense pounding on the right side the next day. These are migraine headaches. Once you know that you’ve had one, you won’t mistake it for anything else ever again.

Migraine headaches tend to last anywhere from several hours to several days. More females get them than males. It’s possible for a migraine to come on at night and wake you up. The main symptoms include the aforementioned pain on one side of the head, nausea, vomiting, horrendous pain, visual sensitivity, auditory sensitivity, and the inability to think clearly. Many people who have migraines end up sitting or lying in a quiet, dark room, in order to get away from painful stimuli.

Are You A Migraine Sufferer?

There’s a big difference between someone who had a migraine one time and someone who suffers from them regularly. If you’ve had a migraine, just as described above, at least on five separate occasions, no matter how far apart, then you’re a migraine sufferer. You have to have at least two of the symptoms described above during each instance. Although taking medication can stop or at least lessen your migraine symptoms, there’s a better solution: your local chiropractor.

How a Chiropractor Can Help

Your local chiropractor can treat your migraines. The first step involves an examination and some x-rays. This will help your chiropractor determine whether or not there are any misalignments in your neck and spine that are causing the headaches. If he or she sees any, a spinal adjustment will be made to relieve that pressure or get rid of the stress. On top of this, a spinal adjustment can improve blood flow in that area, making your pain less intense. There might be some additional follow-up advice included in your treatment as well, such as nutritional advice or lifestyle suggestions, in order to keep the pain from coming back.

Older Adults with Neck Pain Can Benefit from Chiropractic

Aches and pains seem to intensify with age. Many older adults suffer from neck pain but lack the funds required to seek medical care. Thankfully, a chiropractor is a low-cost, professional option. A good chiropractor can help with those aches and pains, and you won’t be charged a small fortune for co-pays, testing, and other medical expenses.

Many Adults 60 And Older Are Financially Insecure

According to the National Council on Aging, over 25 million people in the United States who are age 60 and up are considered “economically insecure.” This means that they’re technically right at or below the federal poverty level. This amount – which is currently set at $30,000 per year, is what many of them receive in retirement benefits.

When elderly adults make their monthly budgets, many realize that something needs to give. The costs of food, housing, gasoline, and other necessities have gone up over time, and social security hasn’t kept up. On top of this, Medicare only pays for so much. These adults are left having to come up with money for co-pays and prescriptions. In the end, those might be the first costs that get left out of the budget.

Then, there’s the medical testing factor. If you go to a doctor complaining of neck pain, you’ll most likely leave with a prescription for an MRI, an x-ray, or some other type of test. Doctors do this in order to be “thorough,” but what they’re really doing is eating in your budget. Thankfully, there’s a less costly option.

Chiropractors Can Help With Neck Pain

The alternative? A chiropractor. If you go to one, he or she may order x-rays on the spot if warranted. You will also be examined right away and he or she will suggest a course of treatment. This usually includes an alignment, but lifestyle modifications might be prescribed as well. The best part isn’t the near-instant treatment and subsequent pain relief. It’s actually the cost. Seeing a chiropractor is very affordable, even more so than seeing your general practitioner.

A Helpful Study

The National Institute of Health and Health Resources and Services Administration did a study in order to examine three different standard treatments. The first involved home exercise and advice, the second this same advice, as well as spinal manipulation, and the third, home exercise combined with some physical rehabilitation.

The results were shocking. The most effective treatment, which dealt with the pain and even took it away for long periods of time, was the second option. This combination of home exercises, lifestyle advice, and spinal manipulations is exactly what a chiropractor specializes in. What does this mean for you? Well, it means that you can see a chiropractor, which costs less, in order to deal with the root causes of your pain. You won’t have to see a doctor and undergo a number of expensive tests.

To put it simply, you’ll experience greater neck pain relief and spend less money if you see a chiropractor. Consider contacting our River North, Chicago location today.

Reaves Chiropractic