An Integrative Approach to Pain Management
By MELANIE KILGORE-HILL
Dixon Blends Best of Chiropractic & Therapeutic Modalities
An evolution in traditional healthcare - ushered in by a nationwide opioid crisis - means patients and providers alike are turning to alternative methods for pain relief. Andy Dixon, DC, owner and chiropractor at Dixon Center for Integrative Health Care, said he's seen a dramatic shift in ideals since the clinic's founding in 1986. "We've seen so much disaster come from the opioid epidemic," Dixon said. "People are realizing there's got to be a better way than narcotics."
Today, Dixon's West Nashville clinic utilizes three chiropractors, massage, physical therapy, dry needling and regenerative medicine, and in 2010 added a nurse practitioner for additional support. He said patients appreciate the integrative approach blending two previously isolated trains of thoughts.
"It keeps the patient from being stuck in the middle, with a chiropractor who says, 'Don't take that medicine,' and a doctor who says, 'Don't go to a chiropractor,'" he said. "We bring everything together so we're working collaboratively behind the scenes to develop a unified treatment plan suited for each patient."
The cultural acceptance of more holistic methods is evidenced by changes in treatment guidelines published by professional medical organizations. "When you look at treatment of back pain, spinal manipulation is now near the top of nonsurgical recommendations," Dixon said. "Chiropractors perform 95 percent of all spinal manipulations in the country, making us the primary providers. Those who are aware of newer treatment guidelines know we're a good choice."
Dixon said integration has evolved tremendously over the past few decades, with chiropractors now on staff at veterans' hospitals and countless medical centers. "Patient satisfaction speaks for itself, and demand is high for these services," Dixon said, pointing to chiropractors' noticeable presence among collegiate and professional sports teams. "We're now working with more traditional providers, athletic trainers and surgeons in both in- and outpatient settings, which used to be rare."
Surprising to many patients, chiropractic care often is covered as a separate benefit by private insurance plans, Medicare and workers' comp and is often very cost effective when compared to more invasive procedures such as epidural steroid injections and surgery.
While patients are increasingly aware of the advantages of chiropractic care, Dixon still gets questions about antiquated rumors regarding risks of adjustments. "Most of that stems from providers who aren't aware of updated guidelines, and they're speaking from prejudices they heard in school 40 years ago," he said. "We're always happy to educate patients, as well as providers, to address misconceptions about safety."
In fact, Dixon said malpractice premiums reflect the true efficacy and safety of treatment. "Chiropractors as a group pay very low amounts for malpractice policies due to safety of care," he pointed out.
And while chiropractic can't resolve every symptom, Dixon frequently works with surgeons and physical therapists to minimize the need for surgery. "Sometimes we can eliminate the need for surgery or just buy that patient more time," he said. "A lot of surgeons also like patients to have pre-surgical physical therapy because it improves results in everything from back to knee and shoulder pain. It's no longer just about post-surgical rehab but improving results on the front end."
Meanwhile, chiropractic colleges are developing cooperatives with medical schools, alternating rotations to help residents better understand the body as a whole. "Medicine can be very segmented in its approach, as opposed to understanding, for example, the relationship between the digestive track and inflammation, or the alignment of feet and how that affects knees and hips (the kinetic chain)," Dixon said. "We're starting to see some of that trickle down into medical education. We know vascular problems aren't just a buildup of plaque from diet but from inflammation, and we've seen patients in chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia come off processed foods and immediately feel better."
Dixon Center is also offering umbilical cord and placenta stem cell injections to treat musculoskeletal pain of the knee, hip and shoulder. "We're seeing a lot of degenerative joint disease (treated) through regenerative medicine," said Dixon, who has experienced firsthand the benefit of stem cell therapy. "This whole field is very exciting, and we're going to see further development of regenerative medicine to the point that we'll be able to drastically impact the number of joint replacements performed going forward."
The clinic also treats weight loss patients by providing accountability and education surrounding lifestyle choices. "We're creating habits that make patients more successful and give them sustainable, long-term results," Dixon explained. "We're not looking for quick fixes."