Spine Study Shows SMT Far Safer than Opioids for Chronic LBP

Timely Findings Support National Advocacy Efforts on H.R. 2654

The findings of a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Spine showcases that a treatment most-often delivered by doctors of chiropractic (DCs) is far safer than opioids for managing chronic low back pain (LBP). As a driven advocate for the chiropractic profession in Tennessee, the TCA is pleased to add this recent study to our resources used to increase chiropractic awareness among health care consumers in our state as well as in backing state and national legislative initiatives.

The study, “Initial Choice of Spinal Manipulative Therapy for Treatment of Chronic Low Back Pain Leads to Reduced Long-term Risk of Adverse Drug Events Among Older Medicare Beneficiaries” found that harmful medication-related incidents occurred 42 times more often in patients who were first prescribed opioids as opposed to patients who first received spinal manipulative therapy (SMT).The findings of a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Spine showcases that a treatment most-often delivered by doctors of chiropractic (DCs) is far safer than opioids for managing chronic low back pain (LBP). As a driven advocate for the chiropractic profession in Tennessee, the TCA is pleased to add this recent study to our resources used to increase chiropractic awareness among health care consumers in our state as well as in backing state and national legislative initiatives.

Study authors, who included DCs, medical doctors and other healthcare researchers, analyzed five years of Medicare claims data for seniors aged 65 to 84 years old who had an episode of chronic LBP in 2013. They compared seniors who received outpatient opioid therapy only and those who received SMT only, as well as those who switched therapies, searching for patients who experienced an adverse drug event at any point.

The study supports other recently published research demonstrating the efficacy of SMT over opioids. For example, in February, the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA Network Open) published a study that found the transition from acute to chronic low LBP increased correspondingly with early exposure to non-concordant guidelines, such as prescribing opioids.

This research is particularly timely as the TCA and others continue to advocate for passage of the Chiropractic Medicare Coverage Modernization Act (H.R. 2654), which was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in April. The bill, in its current draft, requires the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to cover non-SMT treatments that are delivered by DCs such as joint mobilization, physiological therapies, soft tissue massage techniques and others, which are already covered by commercial health plans and the Veterans Administration.

The TCA continues to urge Congress to educate themselves about the optimal health outcomes that DCs help seniors achieve without opioids or any pharmaceutical drug. As you reach out to your legislators, you may also wish to utilize study findings such as these to illustrate that passing this important legislation is a step in the right direction toward reducing healthcare costs while, more importantly, improving the health and well-being of our nation’s seniors.