October is National Physical Therapy Month. Each year, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) recognize and celebrate physical therapists assistants and physical therapists who help improve people’s lives through movement. Physical therapists also help people who are suffering from osteoporosis, stroke, sprains, arthritis, and so much more.
This October’s campaign is focused on choosing physical therapy over opioid pain medication. #ChoosePT raises awareness of America’s opioid epidemic and the dangers of prescription opioids while providing information on safer alternatives for treating chronic pain conditions.
Since 1999, sales of prescription opioids have quadrupled even though the amount of pain that Americans report has not changed overall. In relation, as many as 1 in 4 people who receive prescription opioids long term, for non-cancer pain, struggle with addiction. These are just a few of the staggering statistics of opioid use in America.
In response to these recent studies the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released guidelines and recommendations for prescribing medication. It is understood that if properly dosed, prescription opioids are an appropriate treatment option in certain cases such as cancer treatment, palliative care, end-of-life care, and certain acute care situations.
For other pain management situations, Physical Therapy is recommended as a safe, non-opioid alternative. Move Forward PT provides a few reasons why patients should choose physical therapy over pain medication:
- If the risks of opioid use outweigh the rewards: Potential side effects of opioids include, but are not limited to, depression, overdose, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms when stopping use. With these risks in mind, the CDC guideline states, “opioids should not be considered first-line or routine therapy for chronic pain”.
- If patients want to do more than mask pain: Physical therapists treat pain through movement, helping patients improve or maintain their mobility and quality of life. Physical therapy offers benefits that will help patients live a pain-free and active life for many years while opioids offer a short-term solution to reduce the feeling of pain.
- If pain is related to low back pain, hip or knee osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia: The CDC explains there is “high-quality evidence” that supports exercise as an effective treatment plan for these types of conditions.
- If pain lasts 90 days: If you are suffering from pain symptoms for 90 days or more, it is considered “chronic”. This leads to an increased risk for continued opioid use. The CDC guidelines recommend and prefer non-opioid therapies, such as physical therapy, for chronic pain.
If you’re suffering from pain and discomfort, consult your doctor and ask about all treatment options including non-opioid therapies. The APTA also makes it easy to find a physical therapist in your area.