A Lithia Springs chiropractor is part of a group in Georgia that has launched a public awareness campaign promoting the benefits of natural relief — such as chiropractic care — over controlled pain medication to fight opioid addiction.

Dr. Lesli Walker, owner of Lithia Springs Family Chiropractic on Lee Road, is a Georgia Chiropractic Association (GCA) board member. Chiropractors and leaders like Walker affiliated with GCA, along with Life University and the Georgia Council of Chiropractic, came together to create the campaign, with the attention-getting message that asks and encourages, “Painful Condition? Get Relief. Without Addiction.”

The campaign, funded by a grant from The William M. Harris Family Foundation, comes on the heels of news from the Georgia Department of Public Health, which has detected increased drug overdose-related Emergency Department visits throughout the state.

Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that 1,014 Georgians died from opioid overdoses in 2017. An area known as “The Triangle” north of Atlanta, spanning from Marietta to Alpharetta and down to Atlanta, has seen an alarming rate of growth of opioid usage.

Many people get access to opioids legally through their primary care physicians, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC points out that one in four primary care patients who are on a long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain become addicted.

And Walker said the new trend of virtual healthcare visits may be making it even easier to access opioids.

“We are in a pandemic and people are stressed and out of work,” Walker said. “Some people will abuse drugs to relieve the stress, self-medicate for pain and escape the problems of today. It’s early to know for sure, but telehealth appointments with physicians to address pain may increase the ease of getting prescriptions for opioids, or opioid refills for longer periods of time.”

Walker said she asks people to try chiropractic to manage pain first instead of an opioid, noting it could save someone from addiction, and maybe save a life.

“Give it three weeks to see if chiropractic reduces your pain,” she said. “If it does, you know you’re on the right track.”

Walker said she took the opioid Percocet in 2016 after a hip replacement to help with pain as part of her recovery. She remembers being scheduled to take the Percocet every so many hours. If she went beyond that time, she said she started feeling weird and jittery, along with more pain. But she managed to quit.

“I knew if I took the pill, the pain and nausea and jittery feelings would stop,” Walker said. “I could see why people would get caught up in taking opioids.”

Chiropractic is a second career for Walker. She was an electrical engineer at the Rockwell International Space Shuttle division in California before she became a chiropractor.

After an accident, she said some colleagues went to chiropractors and had good results, so she decided to give it a try.

“I went for three months and felt better not having the pain,” she said.

After that, she started seeing a chiropractor for menstrual cramping that she had for 15 years and she said “it was resolved” and she was able to get off 800 milligrams of Motrin.

“Not only did I feel better, my body was functioning better,” she said. “There was a change. I had a better attitude. That’s why I decided to become a chiropractor.”

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit their healthcare providers and miss work.

“Our goal is to educate the public about safer pain treatment alternatives and to ask physicians to counsel patients on natural pain relief first,” said Leana Kart, D.C., who serves as the campaign’s committee’s spokesperson and is a past president of the Georgia Chiropractic Association and a trustee with Life University.

The campaign’s message is in line with leading healthcare agencies who recommend non-pharmacological care — including chiropractic — for patients with non-cancer pain. These agencies include the CDC, the U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) and The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare.

People with all levels of spinal pain get proven relief from chiropractic care, which aims to restore movement and function. Patients may experience relief from spinal adjustments as well as supportive care such as stretching, spinal traction, soft tissue care, and muscle strengthening. Nutrition and lifestyle counseling may also be provided. And like medical doctors, chiropractors are highly trained, specialized, licensed and regulated.

“With what we know now, opioids must come off the table for neck and back pain,” said Dr. Kart. “Drug-free chiropractic care should be the first choice for patients with spinal pain.”

For more information or to find a local chiropractor, visit ReliefWithoutAddiction.org and follow @ReliefWith outAddiction on Facebook and Instagram.