Opioid use has become a popular option for patients suffering from pain. Pain prescriptions for medications such as Percocet, Vicodin, and OxyContin are often given by well-intended doctors so that patients can perform day-to-day activities with ease. Physical Therapy for Pain Management is a better option

physical therapy for pain management

In many instances, these medications are an effective aspect of medical treatment; however, in many more cases, these medications result in further complications in the life of the patient. These include – but, are not at all limited to – the development of depression, increased anxiety, accidental overdose, and addiction.

Opioids – while often effective and fast-acting – are nothing more than a “mask” for pain.

The medications do not treat the pain at its source; rather, it simply covers it up. As a physical therapist, you have the ability to help patients avoid this “mask”. Physical therapy for pain management is now considered to be the top-rated option over opioids.


The Shocking Statistics

In recent years, the medical community has transitioned from volume-based care to value-based care. While a lot of the facts surrounding this transition pertain directly to the insurance industry and health-related costs, other factors were also related. One of the main being the creation of customized care plans for patients.

physical therapy for pain - doctor treats patients with opioids

Doctors, physical therapists, and others within the medical community had a desire to ensure that each patient received the personalized care that they required – as individuals. Before the introduction of the value-based networks, many statistics arose proving that customized care was essential due to the worsening of the nation’s health. Many of these stunning statistics involved opioid treatments, prescriptions, and the effects, thereof:

  • Prescription opioid sales have – literally – quadrupled since the year of 1999.
  • 44% of opioid users state that their use originated as a result of chronic pain, 25% started their use after suffering through an injury or accident, and 25% started using opioids immediately after surgical intervention due to the development of residual pain thereafter.
  • In the year of 2012 – alone – 259 million different prescriptions were written for opioids. According to the numbers, this was enough for every single adult within the nation to have access to their very own bottle.
  • 1 out of every 4 people that are prescribed opioids suffer from an addiction to the medication.
  • Many states are declaring that opioids are creating a public health emergency within their region. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially declared opioid use as the center of a national-based opioid epidemic. Immediately thereafter, Governor Rick Scott declared the use of opioids an official public health emergency within the State of Florida. This step is sure to become commonplace among other states as officials realize the devastating effects opioids have in their communities.

Today, many physical therapists are taking a stand and helping their patients avoid the use of this “mask”. Freedom from pain through movement is now considered to be the top-rated option to opioids for pain management. Last week, you learned about this issue and were introduced to a few shocking statistics. This week, we continue this series on this hot topic and will expound on how PT is considered to be one of the best value-based network patient care treatments currently available.

When Are Opioids an Appropriate Option?

In many cases, patients will only reach out to your physical therapy facility as a result of being referred by their doctor. In other instances, they may reach out on their own. If patients reach out on their own, when is it appropriate to refer them to a medical doctor for opioid treatment and when is it not appropriate?

This was made clear in the prescription guidelines released by the CDC in March of 2016. If used for the treatment of cancer, in the course of providing palliative care, and/or ensuring end-of-life comfort, as well as situations that result in the need of acute care, opioids are considered to be an appropriate treatment method. However, physical therapy should be the main course of treatment in the following situations:

  • The patient has a strong desire to treat the pain at its source, rather than simply covering it up.
  • The patient suffers from medical issues such as pain in the lower back, osteoarthritis in the hip and/or knee, complications from fibromyalgia, and similar issues.
  • The patient experiences pain in excess of 90 days.

Helping Patients Understand Pain

A staggering 25 million adults within the nation suffer from pain on a daily basis. Opioids provide quick relief but the side effects may outweigh the good. Helping your patients understand pain and providing ongoing solutions is the strongest asset you can give them. Patients are – once again – becoming independent, experiencing higher levels of mobility, and experiencing wellness. Help your patients avoid the “mask”. #ChoosePT and encourage PT!