The U.S. Department of Defense/Veterans Administration guideline for the treatment of low-back pain also includes chiropractic spinal adjustments as a non-drug, non-invasive option
The opioid crisis in the United States has been one of the most devastating problems over the last decade. But there are ways that chiropractic spinal adjustments are helping in treating addiction, sanctioned by the U.S. government.
Eric Nazarrenko, DC, who owns and runs Old Mill Chiropractic in Lexington, S.C., with his wife, Andrea Nazarrenko, PhD, explains how DCs can help. Because addiction involves the brain’s limbic system — where the reward centers are — and drugs increase the neurotransmitters there.
Chiropractic spinal adjustments and addiction
“Addiction happens when the brain transitions from reward seeking from a drug to craving of a drug,” Nazarrenko says. “This switch from pleasure/reward to craving/need, or addiction, is determined by dopamine in the reward center of the brain. It is dependent on the input from the world around you. This all happens at a low level of brain functioning.”
“Chiropractors work on the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord. The spine is the way that the brain knows what is happening in the world around it. All sensory input from the outside world gets sent from sensory nerves to the spinal cord, then transmits at a rapid speed up the spinal cord to your brain. The brain processes this information and responds quickly and sends messages down to the rest of the body. When there is spinal misalignment, this messaging is disrupted. The effect is that the body cannot respond as efficiently as it would if there was no misalignment. This is called a subluxation and can impact health in many different ways. The brain controls the body. When there is disruption in this process, the body cannot function optimally.”
The three primary applications
Nazarrenko says that there are three primary ways in which chiropractic spinal adjustments can help addition:
- First, when the chiropractor fixes the spinal misalignment — the subluxation — the body can function the way it was designed. Changes in the brain are bidirectional, meaning that the changes in the brain affect the body, and the body/environment changes the brain. When the subluxation is fixed, the body sends signals to the brain that allow neurotransmitters to be released in the correct manner. This should be used in tandem with traditional treatments to ensure all needs are met.
- Second, much of addition is related to opioids. Chiropractic is a valid alternative to opioid treatment for pain. This prevents addiction in the first place by reducing pain naturally and not relying on a pharmacological approach to pain reduction.
- Finally, chiropractic can help people respond to traditional treatment better. We encourage a holistic approach to treatment, including addressing any mental health issues or trauma that may underlie the addiction in the first place. As emotional issues are processed, the body may respond. This emotional processing may throw a person out of alignment. Subluxations are caused by physical, emotional, and chemical stress. Addiction and addiction treatment hits on all of these three areas — physical (changes in the environment, injuries from being intoxicated), emotional (processing past traumas), and chemical (withdrawal).
Nazarrenko offers one caution, though: “Chiropractic helps the whole person and whole body’s functioning; it does not directly treat the addiction in the same way as typically thought in a conventional model. We would encourage all people undergoing standard treatment to be seen by a chiropractor to facilitate healing and break the addictive cycle.”
In late 2018 the U.S. Senate passed the Opioid Response Crisis Act, a comprehensive bipartisan bill aimed at empowering the CDC, Department of Health and Human Services, and other agencies with the funding to address the opioid epidemic. The U.S. Department of Defense/Veterans Administration guideline for the treatment of low-back pain also includes chiropractic spinal adjustments as a non-drug, non-invasive option and states, “Complementary medical treatments like acupuncture, spinal manipulation therapy, and yoga are helpful for many people.”