October is National Physical Therapy Month
“My knee hurts when I go down stairs.” “I can’t reach behind my back without my shoulder hurting.” “I have constant back pain.” Do any of these statements apply to you? These are common problems that cause people to seek medical treatment. Pain can be debilitating and can cause people to turn to prescription pain medication. This October, the American Physical Therapy Association (www.apta.org) is raising awareness of physical therapy as a safe and effective alternative to opioids for treating chronic pain.
The Facts About Opioids
- Opioid medications are prescribed at alarming rates.
While there has been a decrease in opioid prescription in recent years, they are still prescribed at alarming rates. According to the CDC, in 2016 health care providers wrote 214 million prescriptions for opioids.
- The risk for misusing prescription opioids is real.
According to the CDC, every day over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription pain medications.
- The risk for addiction is real.
According to the CDC, as many as 1 in 4 people who receive prescription opioids struggles with addiction.
- The risk for heroin use is real.
According to the CDC, among new heroin users, about 3 out of 4 report abusing prescription pain medications before using heroin.
- Physical therapy is a safe and effective alternative to opioids for long-term pain management.
In March 2016 the CDC released guidelines urging non-opioid approaches for managing chronic pain. Physical therapy is a safe and effective non-opioid alternative.
- There are some situations in which opioid therapy is appropriate.
Opioids may be appropriate for cancer treatment, palliative care, end-of-life care, and certain acute situations. Still, the CDC guidelines suggest pairing drug therapy with non-drug therapy. In fact, the prescriber checklist recommends trying non-drug therapy first.
- Patients have a choice about the kind of treatment they receive.
Before accepting a prescription for opioids, patients should talk to their health care providers about related risks and safer alternatives.
The Facts About Physical Therapy
- Physical therapy is not always prescribed. A study published in Spine found that between 1997 and 2010 only about 10% of doctor visits for low back pain resulted in a referral to a physical therapist. If your doctor doesn’t give you a referral to see a physical therapist, ask for one!
- A wide range of conditions respond to physical therapy. Physical therapists are trained to work with conditions that affect all joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the body. Some physical therapists have additional training in specific areas such as hand therapy or women’s health. There is likely a therapist out there with the skills to help your specific problem.