A Conversation with a Chiropractor about Chronic Pain

Editor’s Note: As we have expanded our chronic pain coverage at the National Pain Report, we realized that we hadn’t covered chiropractic medicine very much. We spoke with the American Chiropractic Association who introduced us to Dr. Robert Hayden.

“The use of narcotics to treat pain is overused and should be a last resort for addressing chronic pain, and too often it isn’t.”

Those comments from Robert Hayden, DC, PhD, FICC, a Griffin, Georgia chiropractor and spokesman for the American Chiropractic Association underscore how his profession views the chronic pain environment.

“The chiropractor should be the first to be consulted,” said Dr. Hayden, who acknowledged that his profession is still only occasionally not perceived as a mainstream provider, “although we have come a long way,” he said.

Hayden’s personal journey to chiropractic treatment is a little different. He was a critical care nurse in the VA for years. The VA, and all of its bureaucracy and ineffectiveness, frustrated him. He thought he could do better. It also taught him something else, the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to treating patients.

He doesn’t see himself as a standalone solution.

“I grew up in a multi-disciplinary environment,” he said. “We are all cogs in the wheel.”

He thinks any chronic pain treatment should begin with the most conservative approaches, including chiropractic. He said that level of care, which involve cervical spine adjustments, for instance, “are hundreds of times safer than taking an ibuprofen.”

And while he and other try to identify and remedy the source of the pain, he also understands that it’s not always that simple.

“Sometime we will need referral or co-management,” he said, which includes internal medicine, surgeons, family therapists and massage therapists to name a few. “I have a good network, and most of us do.”

For instance, the high incidence of depression that accompanies chronic pain is an area of concern.

“The rate of depression is a big deal and often exacerbates the very pain we are trying to treat,” Dr. Hayden said. “When a patient can start to feel a little hope, we can make steps to regaining health.”

He is past president of the Georgia Chiropractic Association and an unabashed promoter of his profession.

“It’s amazing how much chronic and recurring pain there is,” he said. “My profession simply says that conservative care should be the first act.”

Used primarily by Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) for the last century, manipulation has been largely ignored by most others in the health care community until recently. Now, with today’s growing emphasis on treatment and cost effectiveness, manipulation is receiving more widespread attention.

Chiropractic spinal manipulation is a safe and effective spine pain treatment. It reduces pain, decreases medication, rapidly advances physical therapy, and requires very few passive forms of treatment, such as bed rest.

It’s about finding the source of the pain which is often found in musculoskeletal origins and an adjustment or realignment can help, but sometimes it’s other things like stress, work, and relationships.

“Our job is to listen and then act, not the other way around.”

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