CF 146: Chiropractic Helps VA Cut Opioids & Diagnosing Lumbar Stenosis

Today we’re going to talk about the success of the VA in reducing prescription opioid use – psst, guess who has helped them do that? And we’ll talk about diagnosing and testing for stenosis.

But first, here’s that sweet sweet bumper music

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OK, we are back and you have found the Chiropractic Forward Podcast where we are making evidence-based chiropractic fun, profitable, and accessible while we make you and your patients better all the way around. 

We’re the fun kind of research. Not the stuffy, high-brow kind of research. We’re research talk over a couple of beers.

I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast.  

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Do it do it do it. 

You have found yourself smack dab in the middle of Episode #146

Now if you missed last week’s episode , we talked about how even kids can hurt. We talked about manipulation for lumbar radiculopathy. And we talked about the lack of attention found on the chiropractic boards for biopsychosocial issues. Make sure you don’t miss that info. Keep up with the class. 

While we’re on the topic of being smart, did you know that you can use our website as a resource? Quick and easy, you can go to, click on Episodes, and use the search function to find whatever you want quickly and easily. With over 100 episodes in the tank and an average of 2-3 papers covered per episode, we have somewhere between 250 and 300 papers that can be quickly referenced along with their talking points. 

Just so you know, all of the research we talk about in each episode is cited in the show notes for each episode if you’re looking to dive in a little deeper. 

Kids Still Hurt, Manipulation For Lumbar Radiculopathy, & Lack Of Attention On The Boards For Biopsychosocial Matters


On the personal end of things…..

To kick off on a cool note you’ll all appreciate, I have a patient that is a med school student that has had amazing results for a pretty significant and lingering disc injury. Your truly opened his eyes to the power of what an evidence-based chiropractor is capable of and it’s paid off for him and, the more of the younger docs that experience something like he has with chiropractic, the more accepted the evidence-based faction of our profession becomes. And the more accepted, the more referrals we get. 

That’s not the good news I wanted to share though. The good news is that he said in one of his classes last week, when they were talking about back pain, manipulation was recommended. In med school. Did you freaking A hear that? Med school is now teaching medical doctors that spinal manipulation isn’t only accepted…..but it’s reco-freaking-mended. 

Bam, Kapow, Zap, Snap, Whack!!

Super hero noises for cool stuff. Hell yeah. 

Moving on, now that school is up and rocking and people are in their normal routines once again, the growth I was talking about a week or two ago is showing to be sustainable at this time. 17 new patients last week tells me we may be slowly getting back to where we were before the Rona. Climbing out of the hole slowly but surely. 

I know all states are different. Here in Texas, as many of you may suspect, is challenging. We probably have A LOT more anti-maskers than many states out there have. We’ve been at work, live…in person since May 1st. Some chiros never took the 2 weeks to step back and see what was up. They just kept motoring through. And….I have to say it looks like they were the smart ones from what I’ve seen. 

I lost out on 2 weeks of work by shutting down completely. Not only that, but from April 1st or so, we were open but emergency only. Honestly… many emergencies do we have? We have some but they’re not going sustain my practice. So….I lost two weeks but only doing the emergency thing made me lose a lot of business as well. 

Then, we’re open to everyone and anyone basically on May 1st. Cool, but it took a good while before people started coming in. They knew we closed for a bit and didn’t always know we were back open. Plus, a ton of them were just scared. Understandably. 

So, as with everyone else that follows science, rules, and recommendations, we lost out. For sure. Since I’ve been back at it….again….May 1st, it seems that maybe we could have been safely going the whole time. I could look back and be upset that I followed the rules and that I’m a boy scout like that. But, I’m not going to be. Because how quickly we may forget; it was spooky. Nobody knew the mortality rate. Nobody knew what percentage end up in the hospital or what percentage gets put on a ventilator and how those percentages change from age group to age group. 

We didn’t know anything about it. When you get reports that the death rate is as high as 5% and then a separate paper says it lives on plastic as much as 3 days…..well hell. Please excuse me a sec while my anxiety goes through the roof. I mean, I want to be polite and excuse myself but yeah, the anxiety was going through the roof for myself as well as for the majority of us out there. Not the subluxation slaying spine whisperers of course but for us sciencers….yeah….we were concerned. 

Now we know so much more. We know when everyone in the clinic is masked, we lower our chances of transmission. Life is continuing. Anxiety is still somewhat up there. But life’s continuing as it all seems to work itself out.  The college kid cases are going up all the time. As expected because they’re kids and they’re knuckleheads. As long as they don’t take it home to vulnerable folks, then I don’t see it as harmful. It’s only helpful. 

My daughter has been going to in-person on-campus junior high with over 1,000 fellow knuckleheads. In the first six weeks there have been 2-3 teachers come down with it and about 4 kids. While that may seem a lot to some of you, I see it as a win so far. All of those people in one building together for 6 weeks and that’s all the spread we have? And let’s be fair, I know one of the teachers for sure got it from her husband who brought it home from work. 

To me, it means so far, they are not giving it back and forth to each other at the schools as long as they’re being careful and masking. So far. I really thought they’d all be closed down and go back to strictly online learning by now. I’m still pleasantly wrong. I’ll take it. 

Alright folks Enough Rona rambling. I don’t start talking about it becuase I love the topic. I’ll admit that I do find it all fascinating though. I really do. I’m a bit nerdy about stuff like that. 

Anyway, I talk about it every week because….damnit….that’s what’s going on. It’s the way it is. It’s in my personal happenings as it is in yours as well. So, I might as well talk about it and share with you my experiences, what I’m seeing in my practice, and how I’m muddling through this mess. It’ll either let you know you’re not alone or it’ll show you what you don’t want to do. I’m good either way. As long as you get some use out of it!

Item #1

This one comes from the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs(2020) and is called “VA reduces prescription opioid use by 64% during past eight years.” It was published online on July 30, 2020…..yep…..pretty damn hot. 

This was an article that was basically announcing that t he VA has successfully reduced prescription opioid use in patients within the VA system by 64%. They went from more than 679.000 veterans in 2012 to 247,000 in 2020. 

Lancet Low Back Update & Movement Disorders Mean Pain


They say they achieve this dramatic reduction by safer amd more responsible use of opioids but also by treating chronic pain using alternative therapies and treatments. Guess who’s a big part of that? Chiropractors. Yep that’s right. And to be fair…acupuncturists as well. We are getting referrals from the VA for both chiropractic and acupuncture. 

They say, the “VA takes an interdisciplinary approach to care focused on a Veteran’s Whole Health by using non-pharmacological, complementary pain management treatments, self-care, skill building, and support to transition from a biomedical to a biopsychosocial model of pain care. “

How many times have you heard me screaming about the biopsychosocial aspect of chronic pain? A LOT….a lot…

If you follow the link in the article to their list of complementary pain management treatments, chiropractic and acupuncture are the first two listed. Good stuff people. Good stuff. 

They’re just not there yet but wouldn’t have been nice if the title was something like, “The VA system reduces opioids 64% by be smarter and by using chiropractic and acupuncture.” I’m not holding my breath for that day but it really should read just like that. Baby steps I suppose. Itty bitty, teensy weensy baby steps it seems. 

Next paper covers diagnostic tests for stenosis but…

Before we get to the next paper, I want to tell you a little about this new tool on the market called Drop Release. I love new toys! If you’re into soft tissue work, then it’s your new best friend. Heck if you’re just into getting more range of motion in your patients, then it’s your new best friend.

Drop Release uses fast stretch to stimulate the Golgi Tendon Organ reflex.  Which causes instant and dramatic muscle relaxation and can restore full ROM to restricted joints like shoulders and hips in seconds.  

Picture a T bar with a built-in drop piece.  This greatly reduces time needed for soft tissue treatment, leaving more time for other treatments per visit, or more patients per day.  Drop Release is like nothing else out there, and you almost gotta see it to understand, so check out the videos on the website.

It’s inventor, Dr. Chris Howson, from the great state of North Dakota, is a listener and friend. He offered our listeners a great discount on his product. When you order, if you put in the code ‘HOTSTUFF’ all one word….as in hot stuff….coming up!! If you enter HOTSTUFF in the coupon code area, Dr. Howson will give you $50 off of your purchase.

Go check Drop Release at and tell Dr. Howson I sent you.

Item #2

This one is called “Diagnostic tests in the clinical diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis: Consensus and Results of an International Delphi Study” authored by Tomkins-Lane et. al(Tomkins-Lane C 2020). and published in European Spine Journal in June of 2020. Damn hot enough!

Why They Did It

The authors wanted to reach a consensus on which diagnostic tests are most important in confirming the clinical diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis

How They Did It

  • Phase 1: 22 members of the International Taskforce on the Diagnosis and Management of LSS confirmed 35 diagnostic items
  • An on-line survey was developed that allows experts to express the logical order in which they consider the diagnostic tests, and the level of certainty ascertained from each test.
  • Phase 2, Round 1: Survey distributed to members of the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine
  • Round 2: Meeting of 15 members of Taskforce defined final list of 10 items.
  • Round 3: Survey was distributed internationally, followed by Taskforce consensus.

What They Found

  • 432 clinicians from 28 different countries participated
  • Certainty of the diagnosis was 60% after selecting the first test and significant change in certainty ceasing after eight items at 90.8% certainty
  • The most frequently selected tests included MRI/CT scan, neurological examination and walking test with gait observation. 
  • The diagnostic test selected most frequently as the first test was neurological examination.

Wrap It Up

“This is the first study to reach an international consensus on which diagnostic tests should be used in the clinical diagnosis of LSS. The final recommendation includes three core diagnostic items: neurological examination, MRI/CT and walking test with gait observation. The Taskforce also recommends 3 ‘rule out’ tests: foot pulses/ABI, hip examination and test for cervical myelopathy.”

Related but on a separate note, the grocery cart sign hints you toward stenosis. If walking through a grocery store just kills the patient but they can lean over on the cart with their elbows and that alleviates the pain….or if sitting removes the complaint fairly quickly, you need to start sniffing up the stenosis tree. 

I am a big fan of Dr. Carmen Amendolia’s program which he was able to validate through research. It’s called the Boot Camp for Stenosis and it’s REALLY turned a very difficult condition to treat into a much more successful outcome for me personally. 

Basically, it’s just a lack of real estate in the canals and this program helps the patient understand the condition as well as self manage after a 2xweek for 6 week protocol. It’s well-thought out and very well done. And easy to do and understand. 

I highly recommend it. Your stenosis patients will thank you profusely.  

Alright, that’s it. Y’all be safe. Keep changing the world and our profession from your little corner of the world. Continue taking care of yourselves and taking care of your neighbors. Tough times are upon us but, the sun will shine again. Trust it, believe it, count on it.

Let’s get to the message. Same as it is every week. 

Key Takeaways


Remember the evidence-informed brochures and posters at 

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The Message

I want you to know with absolute certainty that when Chiropractic is at its best, you can’t beat the risk vs reward ratio because spinal pain is primarily a movement-related pain and typically responds better to movement-related treatment rather than chemical treatments like pills and shots.

When compared to the traditional medical model, research and clinical experience show us patients can get good to excellent results for headaches, neck pain, back pain, and joint pain to name just a few.

It’s safe and cost-effective can decrease surgeries & disability and we do it through conservative, non-surgical means with minimal hassle to the patient.

And, if the patient treats preventativly after initial recovery, we can usually keep it that way while raising the overall level of health!

Key Point:

At the end of the day, patients should have the guarantee of having the best treatment that offers the least harm. When it comes to non-complicated musculoskeletal complaints….

That’s Chiropractic!


Send us an email at dr dot williams at and let us know what you think of our show and tell us your suggestions for future episodes. 

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We can’t wait to connect with you again next week. From the Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward.



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About the Author & Host

Dr. Jeff Williams – Fellow of the International Academy of Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine – Chiropractor in Amarillo, TX, Chiropractic Advocate, Author, Entrepreneur, Educator, Businessman, Marketer, and Healthcare Blogger & Vlogger


  • (2020). “VA reduces prescription opioid use by 64% during past eight years.” VA US Dept Veterans Affairs.
  • Tomkins-Lane C, M. M., Wong A, (2020). “Diagnostic tests in the clinical diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis: Consensus and Results of an International Delphi Study.” European Spine Journal 29: 2188-2197.


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