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Physical Therapy as an Alternative to Opioid Use for Pain

Physical Therapy Can Be an Alternative Use for Drugs

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Many of our clients have suffered painful injuries and must undergo extensive rehabilitation and physical therapy. October is Physical Therapy Month, and a recent initiative launched by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) deserves recognition.

Given the alarming epidemic of opioid use in the United States, APTA has launched the #ChoosePT campaign to raise awareness of physical therapy as an effective alternative to pain management.

Physician-prescribed opioid medication is still an appropriate pain relief solution in certain circumstances, such as cancer treatment or other acute care situations, or for palliative or end-of life care. However, in its 2016 Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that “Clinicians should consider opioid therapy only if expected benefits for both pain and function are anticipated to outweigh risks to the patient.”

The serious risks of opioid use include addiction, overdose, depression, anxiety, liver damage, brain damage, sleep apnea, gastrointestinal problems, impotence, and tooth decay.

Importantly, as opioid use masks a patient’s pain, it can also mask important symptoms that may signal a more severe problem, or a need for different treatment. When pain lasts more than 90 days. it is considered “chronic”; around 116 million Americans have chronic pain each year, and at a greater risk of opioid addiction. The CDC guidelines note that clinicians should not consider opioids as a first choice or routine approach for chronic pain.

Physical therapy can be a great alternative to drug use

The CDC also cites evidence that problems like low back pain, hip or knee osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia are better treated with a physical therapy treatment plan. This is because physical therapy treats pain with a more comprehensive approach. Physical therapists focus on educating patients and using hands-on care and movement to increase patients’ physical activity. These elements have a side benefit of reducing the risk of other chronic diseases.

We encourage our clients, or anyone suffering from a painful injury or medical condition, to discuss pain management options like physical therapy with their doctor. If you’re interested in joining the #ChoosePT campaign, go to APTA’s website for more information.

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