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Chiropractic Care Is The Drug-free Way To Tackle Pain

The New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association has endorsed international calls for a dramatic shift in the way society manages low back pain, emphasising chiropractic care as a drug-free and effective treatment option.

In the midst of a global opioid crisis, New Zealand has experienced an "astonishing" regulatory blunder that loosened access restrictions to highly addictive opioid painkillers. The November amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations extended the maximum prescription period from one month to three months, allowing a month's worth of opioids to be dispensed at once1. This error is highly concerning given that opioid drugs have contributed to 333 overdose deaths in New Zealand between 2017 and 2021, according to the NZ Drug Foundation2.

Dr Jenna Duehr, a spokesperson for the NZ Chiropractors’ Association says ‘We want to highlight the importance of evidence-based and person-centred care for low back pain patients. Chiropractors play a pivotal role in providing effective pain relief without resorting to opioid medications or other invasive treatments. The Association is calling for increased focus on allied health professionals, like chiropractors, to address back pain and improve the health service for the 21st century.’

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The international attention on drug-free management of back pain is exemplified by an editorial in Medpage Today by Christine Goertz, Professor in Musculoskeletal Research at Duke Clinical Research Institute. Professor Goertz emphasises the need for realigned incentives that promote evidence-based treatments and calls for clinicians to follow current evidence and treatment recommendations3.

Studies, such as the one published in JAMA Network Open, have shown the effectiveness of chiropractic care in providing pain relief for low back pain. U.S. military personnel using chiropractic care alongside traditional medical care demonstratedreported better pain relief outcomes than those solely seeking traditional medical care5.

The Health Ministry's recent admission of the inadvertent loosening of opioid access restrictions highlights the need for a comprehensive approach to pain management. Chiropractic care can offer a safe, non-addictive and effective alternative for chronic pain sufferers. Furthermore, research supports the need for funding and access to non-drug alternatives and psychological support, to address the under-serviced chronic pain services in New Zealand6.

In light of the evidence, the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association encourages individuals suffering from back pain to explore drug-free treatment options. Chiropractors, equipped with expertise in spinal health and patient-centred care, are ideally positioned to play a crucial role in managing back pain effectively.

For more information, please visit the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association website at https://chiropracticnz.org.


1. Macdonald, N. (2023, July 22). "Nothing short of astonishing": Health Ministry to recommend reversal of opioid access loosening blunder. Stuff. Link

2. NZ Drug Foundation. (n.d.). About drugs. Link

3. Goertz, C. (2023). Overmedicalisation of low back pain may make a bad problem worse. Medpage Today. Link

4. The Lancet. (2018). Series on low back pain. The Lancet, 391(10137), 2356. Link

5. Williams, C. M., Maher, C. G., Latimer, J., McLachlan, A. J., Hancock, M. J., Day, R. O., ... & Lin, C. W. (2023). Efficacy and safety of a judicious short course of an opioid analgesic for acute low back pain and neck pain: results from an Australian randomised controlled trial. JAMA Network Open, 410(10111), 454-457. Link

6. Burrell, B., & et al. (2023). Funding non-drug alternatives for chronic pain management. New Zealand Medical Journal, 136(1574), 10-14. Link

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