Every October, the American Physical Therapy Association recognizes the impact physical therapists and physical therapy assistants make in restoring and improving motion in people’s lives.
This year, the overarching goal for physical therapy month is to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription opioids and encourage patients and prescribers to choose safer alternatives like physical therapy.
What You Need to Know About Prescription Opioids
- The increase in prescription opioid use is unmistakable.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2012 health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications–enough for every American adult to have their own bottle of pills.
- The risk for misusing prescription opioids is real.
According to the CDC, over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids every day.
- The risk for addiction is real.
According to the CDC, as many as 1 in 4 people who receive prescription opioids long-term for noncancer pain in primary care settings struggles with addiction. Other possible side effects experienced by users include depression, overdose and withdrawal symptoms.
- Opioids only mask the sensation of pain.
- Opioid effectiveness for long-term pain management is inconclusive in many cases.
- There are some situations in which opioid therapy is appropriate.
The CDC guidelines indicate that opioids may be appropriate for situations including cancer treatment, palliative care, end-of-life care, and certain acute care situations. Still, the CDC guidelines suggest pairing opioid therapy with nonopioid therapy, and their prescriber checklist recommends trying nonopioid therapy first.
Why Choose Physical Therapy for Pain Management
- Physical therapy is a safe and effective alternative to opioids for long-term pain management.
In March 2016, the CDC released guidelines urging nonopioid approaches for the management of chronic pain.
- Physical therapy does not mask pain.
- Physical therapists treat pain through movement.
- The “side effects” are good for you.
Physical therapy “side effects” include improved mobility, increased independence, decreased pain, and prevention of other health problems through movement and exercise.
- Physical therapy is effective for multiple conditions.
Physical therapy is effective for numerous conditions. The CDC cited “high quality evidence” supporting exercise as part of physical therapist treatment for familiar conditions like low back pain, hip and knee osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia.
- It is a safe alternative to surgery.
Physical therapy has been found to be as effective as surgery for conditions including meniscal tears, knee osteoarthritis, and rotator cuff tears.
- Treatment plans are individualized.
Physical therapist treatment plans are tailored to each person’s needs and goals, taking preexisting conditions into account.
- Potential risks can be identified.
Physical therapists can identify additional health issues, beyond what a patient initially reports, thereby improving a person’s overall health and quality of life.
You Have a Choice
As always, patients have a choice about the kind of treatment they receive and should talk to their health care provider(s) about the related risks of any care plan.