Woman having chiropractic back adjustment.

For several years, Shelley of Floral Park suffered from debilitating chronic back pain, resulting in missed work, difficulty with everyday tasks like grocery shopping, and an inability to enjoy favorite activities such as bike riding. 

Four years ago, everything changed. Shelley made the choice to address her pain through noninvasive, drug-free chiropractic treatments. She felt relief in only a couple of weeks. 

“My back pain is very manageable because I keep regular visits,” says Shelley, who asked that her last name not be used. “I have many days that I am pain free and movement is very easy. Drug-free management means, to me, that I am not using a Band-Aid, or relying on medications that provide relief, but do not address, nor fix, the underlying issue. And that is truly important to me.” 

New York State lawmakers who recently designated September as Drug-Free Pain Management Month hope that if more people follow Shelley’s lead, there will be fewer fatal overdoses due to the national opioid crisis, which is largely fueled by prescription painkillers.

“You have millions of Americans — millions of people all over the world — that suffer from chronic neck and back pain…migraines, [too],” says state Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport). “It’s very important that we spread the word that there are alternatives to treating chronic pain. Unfortunately, in Suffolk County, we have an ominous distinction — that is leading New York State with opioid deaths. Now, that was in 2016; fortunately, every year those numbers are going down a little bit.” 

Raia announced the designation, which is led by the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, during a news conference at Levitan Chiropractic at the Pagoda Wellness Center in East Northport, where he was joined by state Assemblyman John Mikulin (R-Bethpage), Dr. Mark Levitan, other practitioners at Pagoda Acupuncture and Wellness Center, and members of the community.

“There are just so many people suffering from this,” says Mikulin, noting that Nassau County has also been impacted by the epidemic. “We’ve had success, but it’s very important that we have awareness and it’s important there are alternatives to opioids.”

As a member of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, Dr. Levitan believes spearheading this national effort on a local level is critical. 

“We need to get out to the people not just awareness of the problem, but awareness of the solution,” he says. 

Opioids were originally intended for cancer pain, post-surgical pain, and for use over a limited period of time, Dr. Levitan explains. 

“What changed was that it became too readily available and too profitable for pharmaceutical manufacturers,” he says. Citing recent court settlements in excess of $10 billion involving pharmaceutical companies Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma, Dr. Levitan adds, “They misled the public in terms of the actual true addictiveness of the agents.” 

He says that doctors also need to adhere to guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration, and other organizations that say, “the first line of attack for chronic pain is supposed to be nonpharmacologic alternatives.” 

“Chiropractic is the most widely researched and documented and has the highest patient favorability of all alternatives,” says Dr. Levitan. “It’s the largest nondrug, nonsurgical healing art in the world.”

Adjusting the spine normalizes the body’s inherent capability to heal and maintain homeostasis and normal balance, explains Dr. Levitan. 

“When everything is functioning properly, pain manages to go away,” he says.

Raia adds that there’s no time to waste in raising awareness of drug-free alternatives to pain. 

“The truth of the matter is four out of five people that are addicted to heroin started with prescription drugs,” says Raia. “Here, we recognize acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care. These are all the things that are very successful in treating chronic pain. People have a choice.”

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