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Physical Therapy: A Healthy Alternative to Opioids for Pain Management


 Prescription opioids have provided an easy route for individuals to manage their physical pain for decades. This approach has been steadily growing in popularity since the 1990s, and its potential risks have become increasingly concerning. Since 1999 the amount of sold prescription opioids has quadrupled, as have the deaths associated with them.1 As a result, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention in a recent guideline stated that many non drug alternatives such as physical therapy are preferred, and that these alternatives can ameliorate chronic pain in a much safer and more permanent way.2 However, when opioids are prescribed, it is recommended to use the least effective dosage while also combining it with treatment such as physical therapy.3

     When considering whether to start taking prescription opioids it is important to consult experts and discuss any possible alternatives. Physical therapists can provide valuable insight and knowledge related to your needs, along with setting realistic goals for your recovery with and without opioids. It is important to know that chronic pain, or pain which lasts longer than three months, should not be treated with prescription opioids. Because treatment time will likely increase, so do the risks of addiction.1,3

     What should you expect from a physical therapist? Physical therapists begin by testing and measuring an individual’s pain and the potential causes for it, which may range anywhere from mechanical errors to lifestyle choices. Once the cause is identified, the treatment plan is decided, which may consist of exercise, manual therapy, or education in sleeping patterns and stress management. Multiple studies have shown this approach to be a viable, effective way of managing pain and improving long-term functionality without the negative side-effects of prescription opioids.1

Talk to a physical therapist today to find out how your pain can be managed without the use of opioids.

By Alexander Albarian 

  1. APTA, (2018). How physical therapy can transform pain management to improve health. American Physical Therapy Association White Paper. Accessed August 20, 2018.
  2. CDC, (2018). U.S. drug overdose deaths continue to rise: increase fueled by synthetic opioids. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed August 20, 2018.
  3. Move Forward, (2018). Physical therapy vs opioids: when to choose physical therapy for pain management. American Physical Therapy Association. Accessed August 20, 2018.