Commentary:  Chiropractic: Part of the Solution to America’s Pain Epidemic

Commentary: Chiropractic: Part of the Solution to America’s Pain Epidemic

by American Chiropractic Association (ACA) President Anthony Hamm, DC, FACO

Dr. Anthony Hamm

Dr. Anthony Hamm

There is a consensus that pain in America is a problem of epidemic proportion and that many types of prescription management and some surgical procedures to control pain have associated risks and may lead to further health-related issues. In many of these cases, dependence on prescription opioids — and eventually heroin — can be traced back to an epidemic of chronic pain that has been improperly treated in our nation’s health care system.

Chronic pain has been described as a disease in itself. According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, “Chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. When asked about four common types of pain, respondents in a National Institutes of Health statistics survey indicated that low back pain was the most common, followed by severe headache or migraine, neck pain and facial ache or pain. Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under the age of 45.”1

While a multi-faceted plan is needed to fight this scourge, one potential strategy is the use of conservative forms of care for pain before resorting to higher risk options such as opioids. A conservative health care model emphasizes more cost-effective and safer approaches over potentially addictive medications or surgery for pain management and health enhancement. Health care quality organizations have begun to recognize the value of this conservative approach. Earlier this year, the Joint Commission, which certifies more than 20,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, revised its pain management standard to include chiropractic services and acupuncture2.

The vast majority of practicing chiropractic physicians have a high level of interest and expertise in managing painful conditions and are therefore poised to play a vital role in the conservative management of many painful syndromes and, indeed, chronic pain. Many active self-care and complementary and integrative strategies, which may be accessed through a chiropractic physician, provide a solution for chronic pain sufferers. Treatment modalities that have been associated with pain relief include manipulation/mobilization, acupressure and acupuncture, self-correcting exercises, TENS application, massage and others. Chiropractic physicians are trained and competent in many of these interventions, and these procedures are associated with lower risks, decreased pain levels and increased physical function.

Earlier this month, a first-ever nationally representative Gallup survey, commissioned by Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, found that 33.6 million Americans sought chiropractic care in 2014, compared to a previously reported estimate of 20.6 million in 2012. The survey discovered that a majority of U.S. adults believe chiropractic physicians are effective at treating neck and back pain. According to the report, more than half of all U.S. adults have visited a chiropractic physician, and more than a quarter of them would choose chiropractic care first for back or neck pain3.

Chiropractic’s role in pain management is currently being demonstrated in community health centers, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In many states, chiropractic physicians are participating in the management of injured workers. The American Pain Society now has a complementary and alternative medicine shared interest group, co-chaired by a doctor of chiropractic. Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) will prioritize chiropractic and other complementary therapies over painkillers or surgery for patients with back pain. This marks a huge shift from the previous policy, which heavily favored narcotics as the first line of defense against pain. Under the new policy, OHP patients will be able to receive chiropractic treatment – as well as acupuncture, cognitive behavioral therapies, osteopathic manipulation and physical and occupational therapy – up to 30 times a year4.

Next month is National Chiropractic Health Month. This year, the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) will mark the observance by working with members of the profession to spread the word about chiropractic’s conservative, broad-spectrum and nonaddictive pain management methods, and help create a #PainFreeNation. Visit ACA’s website at for more information on the chiropractic profession and to find a doctor of chiropractic near you.

You may contact Dr. Anthony Hamm at You can also follow him on Twitter @ACA_Prez.


  1. AAPM Facts and Figures on Pain. The American Academy of Pain Medicine. Retrieved from
  2. Revisions to pain management standard effective January 1, 2015. The Joint Commission. Retrieved from
  3. 2015 Gallup-Palmer Inaugural Report: Americans’ Perceptions of Chiropractic
  4. Oregon Prioritizes Chiropractic, Complementary Therapies Over Painkillers and Surgery. Palmer News. Aug. 11, 2015. Retrieved from


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Ahmad Sizemore

Invaluable analysis - I was enlightened by the facts . Does someone know if I might be able to acquire a sample SSA-3373-BK form to complete ?

Kathy Kooper

These kinds of Articles are misleading. There is a considerable amount of difference between Chiropractors, and very little consistency. I initially only went to chiropractors for my back pain. The first visit was in my teens, and it was miraculous. I had been in a sledding accident. That Chiropractor immediately relived the pain. I had been to the ER and told I had cold. He was my Father’s Chiropractor, and he was very skilled.
Over the years I repeatedly turned to Chiropractors, and did not use any conventional medications other than a few NSAIDS. My spine only got worse. I stupidly thought that a Chiropractor would have warned me, or diagnosed the issues, instead I was sold various quack items. This was fairly expensive ,and like millions of people I did not have Insurance.
Currently I only get minimal treatment. I feel like I was taken advantage of by some Chiropractors, and perhaps made worse. I Had no other choice, and once you pay the initial intake fees, you are kind of locked into continuing treatment. It is probably a good idea to use chiropractors first, but there is a significant difference in skill levels.


In addition, it should be mentioned that those of us who are sick have a lot more knowledge of what is going on with the government, the illegals, the doctors, the insurances, etc. than you give us respect for. There are plenty of problems with illegal drugs in the US, there always have been and likely always will be. Now, cut those of us who need these drugs out of your conversations and keep categories. We feel like we are being blamed for being ill and having to use drugs. Take a poll on how many of us want to use drugs vs. having our old lives back where we can ski, run, stay in shape, clean a house, and have one whole day that we feel well.