Opioids vs Physical Therapy

By Jenny Johnson, CC’s Staff

Opioids vs Physical Therapy

     We all know that opioids and the recent “epidemic” have been quite the buzz words lately, and it can be a sensitive subject with people that are suffering from chronic pain. Although doctor-prescribed opioids are appropriate for some cases, they mask the pain and the side effects are not always worth it. Risks of depression, addiction, overdose, and withdrawal symptoms are all fairly common. Is it worth the risk to your health in order to be pain free? That’s why the CDC and recent research recommends safer alternatives like physical therapy to manage pain.
    Opioids reduce the sensation of pain by interrupting pain signals to the brain. Physical therapists treat pain through movement, patient education, and hands-on-care – and by increasing physical activity, you can also reduce your risk of other chronic diseases. A recent study published in Health Services Research found that patients who saw a PT before trying other treatments for low back pain were 89% less likely to need an opioid prescription. That’s pretty significant!
   Sales of prescription opioids have quadrupled in the United States, even though “there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report.” Why the discrepancy? All too often people are looking for the “quick fix” to their pain and have less motivation to take the time and actually treat the problem. Now don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a time and place for appropriate opioid use, we just don’t want it to be the sole treatment patients are using to address their pain. Even in situations when opioids are prescribed, the CDC recommends that patients should receive “the lowest effective dosage,” and opioids “should be combined” with nonopioid therapies, such as physical therapy. Our goals are to get your body moving better, improve your strength and function, and improve your pain to the point where we can help you get away from pharmacological treatment. Physical therapists can play a valuable role in the patient education process, including setting realistic expectations for recovery with or without opioids. We use many interventions including graded exercise, manual therapy, dry needling, and pain neuroscience education to form the best plan for your individual case and treat your pain without the meds.
    The American Physical Therapy Association launched a national campaign to raise awareness about the risks of opioids and the safe alternative of physical therapy for long-term pain management. Learn more at the #ChoosePT page.
If you have questions about being prescribed opioids, or help with possible transition away from these medications, call our office today and we can see if we can help!

Bibliography
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US drug overdose deaths continue to rise; increase fueled by synthetic opioids. Updated March 29, 2018.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prescribing data. Updated August 30, 2017.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioid basics. Updated August 27, 2017.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2016.
https://www.moveforwardpt.com/Resources/Detail/physical-therapy-vs-opioids-when-to-choose-physical-therapy

Post Author: Jenny Johnson

Jenny is a DPT, wife, baseball lover, kayaker, dog wrangler, and new mom to sweet baby, Bria.

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