While there are multiple ways to treat chronic pain, what’s easiest isn’t always what’s safest for the patient. Being dependent on medication just to feel “normal” isn’t always what’s going to work for someone. And, that dependency on medicine can lead to other long-term issues.
For Dr. Amber Jackson, who suffered from chronic back pain as a teenager, medication was only the first solution she tried, and it didn’t work. The pain was still there, the medication only masking it. Once she found chiropractic care, Dr. Amber began living without debilitating or distracting pain. This alternative changed her life, and inspired her to become a chiropractor herself.
Not everyone is so lucky.
What medicating away the pain looked like
Dr. Amber initially believed that the only way she was going to get through life was with medication. Treating her back pain, which resulted from being a high school athlete, with both muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories, she thought routine medications were her only option.
Medicating herself to try and stay ahead of the pain eventually stopped working, and Dr. Amber was concerned about addiction. A car accident brought her to a chiropractor’s office, and under their treatment, she realized regular adjustments did more to alleviate her pain than the medication ever did. She stopped taking it.
However, even with her breakthrough, opioid addiction still struck her family. Dr. Amber had an aunt who was given pain medication to treat a fractured rib occurring after a fall. Eventually, treating the pain solely with medication led to an addiction. Her aunt passed away from a heart attack either caused by an overdose or the mixture of a bad cocktail of medications.
Unlike Dr. Amber, her aunt didn’t have a breakthrough moment where she found an alternative to the pain medication. It’s scary for so many people, says Dr. Amber, who don’t know what to do, but the pain is just too much.
How a personal story breaks the barriers to chiropractic care
Now, Dr. Amber uses her past experiences, and that of her family, to connect with her hesitant patients. She eases them into treatment, offering plenty of explanation and a lot of time to ask and answer questions. “I treat everyone like I’m treating myself,” she says.
By giving patients time to choose chiropractic care themselves, Dr. Amber reduces the stress patients feel, and makes the whole process better for everyone.
For those who opt into chiropractic care, Dr. Amber is happy to report positive change. One patient, who was taking pain medication, and a muscle relaxer, every day for an entire year gets better with each visit. She no longer feels tired all the time.
Another patient, who suffered injuries from a car accident, went off their pain meds thanks to consistent care. Most patients who come in to treat an injury resulting from an accident see results within 6-8 weeks to the point that they no longer need their pain prescription.
“You can fight pain with prescriptions,” says Dr. Amber, “but consistency of care is key, whatever that looks like for the individual patient.”
Even if the pain isn’t always gone right away, the goal is for patients to live like Dr. Amber herself. Medications for maintenance are no longer necessary.
Why bringing attention to this issue matters
In 2019 almost 50,000 people in the United States died from an opioid-involved overdose. While not all of these victims were using prescription medications, they’re still a statistic within the greater opioid epidemic. Educating the public about alternatives to pain medication is very important, and an issue Dr. Amber is extremely passionate about.
Being a part of Relief Without Addiction gives her a platform that shares ideas she has always had — you don’t have to live in pain, you don’t have to normalize pain. A campaign like this, that leads people in pain toward chiropractic care as an alternative for medication, can really change lives, says Dr. Amber. She thinks Relief Without Addiction’s message aligns perfectly with her own and that she’s a great advocate because of her own experiences.
For Dr. Amber, it’s all about saving that one patient, and the ripple effect it can have on saving others.
Approaching addiction with patients
The approach to addiction, says Dr. Amber, should be gradual, handled sensitively. Most patients won’t admit they have a medication addiction, but as long as they’re in her office, a positive step is being taken.
From there, Dr. Amber can present patients with alternative forms of care when it comes to pain management. Her hopes are that more medical professionals embrace the bigger picture when it comes to treating pain. She wants to bridge the gap between holistic and medeopathic care in a way that when a doctor has a patient in pain, and medication isn’t working, the next step in care is to send them to a chiropractor.
Her dream is for medical professionals to manage patients in pain together to provide them with care that works without increasing any risk for addiction.
Offering alternatives to possible opioid addictions
Connecting through her own experiences, and defining her approach to patients by thinking back on her own treatment, Dr. Amber is saving one patient at a time from a possible lifelong opioid addiction. Ensuring that those who come into her office on pain meds understand their alternatives and how chiropractic care works, she’s helping patients, who are hesitant about treatment, to eventually give up on using pain medication at all.
Saving one patient is her focus, but her understanding of how chiropractic care can impact pain without the use of a prescription will help many.