Approximately 100 million U.S. adults are burdened by chronic pain every year, with an estimated annual national economic cost of $560-635 billion, according to Relieving Pain in America.
Dr. Mary Balliett, chiropractor and professor at New York Chiropractic College, says that her most important job as a chiropractor is to determine a differential diagnosis to get at the root of a patient’s pain, develop an effective treatment plan, and deliver the best adjustment and adjunctive therapies that have been shown to reduce symptoms for the patient.
“Every patient who has ever come to my office has a chief complaint of pain,” Dr. Balliett said. “I have seen patients with acute and chronic pain. I have seen patients label their pain as 2/10 up to ‘15/10’ when they feel that 10/10 is not quite high enough.”
Dr. Balliett uses adjunctive therapies such as myofascial trigger-point therapy, Active Release Techniques®, instrument-assisted soft-tissue work, ultrasound, stretching, and exercise, along with diet and lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements.
“The type and blend of these is dependent upon the patient and the diagnosis, and I strive to have my decisions informed by evidence-based practice,” says Dr. Balliett.
Dr. Jeanmarie Burke, NYCC’s Dean of Research and an associate professor, explains, “The emerging evidence from research indicates that manual therapies, which includes chiropractic care and massage, exercise, and acupuncture, hold promise in helping patients manage and alleviate their pain.”
One recent New York Times article cites studies published in both the Journal of the American Medical Association and Annals of Internal Medicine, the latter of which prompted the American College of Physicians to update its clinical practice guidelines to include noninvasive treatment, such as spinal manipulation, for subacute back pain.
“Spinal manipulation — along with other less traditional therapies like heat, meditation and acupuncture — seems to be as effective as many other more medical therapies we prescribe, and as safe, if not safer,” the Times article said. “Most back pain resolves over time, so interventions that focus on relief of symptoms and allow the body to heal are ideal. Many of these can be nonpharmacological in nature, like the work done by chiropractors or physical therapists.”
In the 29 years of her professional chiropractic career, Dr. Balliett has seen thousands of people relieved of pain through these treatments.
“This is why I teach,” Balliett said. “I want every person who is in pain to have the opportunity to have their pain alleviated by well-trained chiropractors who have achieved academic excellence in the basic sciences, clinical sciences, and chiropractic manipulative therapy.”