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For more information about chiropractic treatment, contact:


M. Todd Staker, DC
Ben Schemmel, DC
Trevor Williams, DC

3550 NW Cary Parkway, #104
Cary, NC 27513
Telephone: (919) 460-1515

Cancer and Chiropractic:
Expertise in Conservative Pain Management

As cancer rates continue to rise, notes Dr. Todd Staker of Staker Chiropractic Center in Cary, “there is increased emphasis on the use of chirorpactic expertise as an effective way to manage pain.” His colleagues in the practice are Dr. Ben Schemmel and Dr. Trevor Williams.

Notes Dr. Staker, “As many as two out of three cancer patients experience pain, either from the cancer itself or from the treatment for their cancer. An increasing number of hospitals are utilizing alternative methods to moderate or alleviate pain caused by cancer—and high on the list of successful pain management treatment is chiropractic care.”

Health&Healing: Are you offering pain management treatment to patients who are actively being treated for cancer, as well as those who are in full recovery from their cancer treatment?

Dr. Staker

DR. STAKER: Yes. We had a lady, in her early forties, who came to us about a year after her cancer surgeries. She had undergone a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery and as a consequence, she had a great deal of middle-back pain, upper-back pain, and anterior pain. There was a lot of tightness in her upper back, and achiness and pain were her subjective findings. She had numerous subluxations, misalignments in the thoracic spine and upper thoracic spine, and the lower part of her neck, and lower cervical spine, all attributable to her multiple surgeries.

Cancer Pain Management and Chiropractic Treatment

Cancer is the number two leading cause of death in the United States. These groups of diseases cause the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells and will be responsible for an estimated 600,000 deaths this year. On the positive side, the percentage of people with a five-year survival rate is up 19 percent from 1977, attributed to both earlier diagnosis and improve-ments in treatments.

Chiropractic is an increasingly used form of treatment for cancer pain—as a viable alternative to exclusive pain management through medication. Cancer Treatment Centers of America recommend chiropractic care to help reduce stress, increase mobility, flexibility, strength and function, and improve overall well-being. Spinal manipulation is a gentle, non-invasive and drug-free approach to correcting musculo-skeletal issues and restoring nerve function.

The treatment we offered was the active release technique along with chiropractic adjustments. I saw her twice a week for a total of four weeks, and after our last visit she said she felt great. She responded exceptionally well and was delighted with the outcome of our work together. As we progressed through this treatment, she was getting progressively more pleased with the outcome.

H&H: As a general recommendation, do you believe that women who are dealing with breast cancer surgery may find it beneficial to seek chiropractic care?

DR. STAKER: Absolutely. I believe chiropractic care supports the entire healing process, providing support for specific organs and tissue affected by surgical procedures, and to the whole healing process, as well.

H&H: Dr. Schemmel, there’s a good deal of concern about the use of opioids to manage pain.

DR. SCHEMMEL: And, in fact, the use and abuse of opioids is a real crisis in this country. It’s the prescription of opioid painkillers that are often used for pain relief that provide the potential for abuse. Chiropractic care at its core treats the cause and not the symptoms of problem conditions, not masking the brain from feeling pain, but trying to address pain where it’s actually occurring. Frequently that pain originates from the spine, and the nerves that are involved in the spine. So blunting pain with drugs is simply antithetical to what we seek to accomplish with chiropractic care.

Dr. Schemmel

Patients may not realize how inactive they become while undergoing chemotherapy and cancer treatment. They spend a lot of time sitting around as they go through extensive treatments, especially if they are having radiation therapy. Incorporating strength exercises in their regimen is crucial. Also, patients are just tired of putting all those medications into their system. They want a more natural approach. Chiropractic is a great way to complement that.

Some cancer patients may have the concern that they may not be able to handle treatments that other patients can undergo—such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. That’s not the case. Cancer patients are willing and able to handle this treatment. Chiropractic is a great way to supplement their recovery in a natural, non-invasive type of protocol.

Patients come to us not to cure the cancer, but for pain management during and after cancer treatment and rehabilitation. Our job is to reduce pain. We try to make them feel better after they’ve gone through it all.

DR. WILLIAMS: From a pain management standpoint, if you’re a cancer patient who’s reading this article in Health&Healing, it would be wise for you to talk with a chiropractor about your pain management issues. What we offer is extremely safe, quite cost-effective, and a therapeutically effective way to deal with musculoskeletal pain.

Dr. Williams

First we evaluate the patient for indication of treatment. For example, one reason we wouldn’t treat a patient is if they have metastases in their bones. We would then be cautious of what treatment therapies to proceed with.

We definitely understand where to draw the line: what we can or cannot do to help the patient. When it comes to chiropractic treatment, our role is to offer supportive care in dealing with the pain that manifests from the cancer itself, and from its subsequent treatment. If you know a cancer patient, you are aware of the fatigue and malaise that they experience. That fatigue often leads to stagnancy—muscles that tighten up when you’re laying down or feeling ill. These muscles stiffen up from post-surgery, or because you just don’t have the energy to keep moving. A chiropractor is going to inspect the whole spine and make sure that it’s functioning properly.

In our practice, we work on the muscles and soft tissue as well—those tissues that aren’t necessarily directly related to the spine but may really contract and aggravate the pain. The key to chiropractic pain management is to alleviate stress from the spine, muscles, and soft tissues around it.

We’re also going to help the patient keep active. Perhaps their oncologist told them that they shouldn’t be running or doing X, Y and Z. If they’re really in an acute situation, we can help them remain active and modify exercises; we can get them moving and show them therapeutic exercises that they can perform as a home regimen to help them deal with the pain.

H&H: Do you see a lot of cancer patients?

DR. STAKER: I’ve had patients that have recovered from prostate, brain, and breast cancer. Over the last 20 years, our patient volume has steadily increased. As that happens, you tend to see more patients recovering from cancer. Twenty years ago, not so much; but today, absolutely. We’re seeing a variety of post-cancer treatment problems and they’ve now become a consistent part of our practice.