Physical Therapy: The Safer Way to Manage Pain
America is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Opioid prescriptions have quadrupled since 1999. In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million opioid prescriptions, enough for every adult in the United States to have a bottle of pills. As the volume of opioids has increased, so has the amount of misuse, abuse and overdose.
The national impact of the opioid epidemic is just as staggering in New York State. As reported in the
New York State Opioid Poisoning, Overdose and Prevention, a 2015 Report to the Governor and NYS Legislature:
- 10,909,602 Opioid Analgesic Prescriptions were dispensed to patients in 2014.
- Opioid analgesic-related deaths increased 30 percent from 2009 to 2013 (from 735 to 952).
- Opioid-related emergency department visits increased 73 percent from 2010 to 2014.
- 75,110 opioid-related inpatient hospital admissions were reported in 2014; an increase of 3 percent from 2010.
- 118,875, (42 percent) of the 281,800 admissions to NYS certified substance abuse treatment programs in 2014 included “any opioid” as the primary, secondary or tertiary drug problem was up 19 percent (100,004) from 2010.
When Should Patients Choose Physical Therapy?
The risks of opioid use outweigh the rewards
Opioid use can cause depression, overdose, and addiction, plus withdrawal symptoms when stopping use.
Patients want to do more than mask the pain
Physical therapy treats pain through movement while partnering with patients to improve or maintain their mobility and quality of life.
Pain or function problems are related to low back pain, hip or knee osteoarthritis, of fibromyalgia
The CDC cites “high-quality evidence” supporting exercise as part of a physical therapy treatment plan for those familiar conditions.
Opioids are prescribed for pain
Even in situations when opioids are prescribed, the CDC recommends that patients should receive the “lowest effective dosage,” and “should be combined” with non-opioid therapies such as physical therapy.
Pain lasts 90 days
At this point, the pain is considered “chronic”, and the risks for continued opioid use increase. The CDC guidelines note that non-opioid therapies are “preferred for chronic pain.
What Can NYPTA Members Do?
- Take the Pledge to Fight the Opioid Epidemic at www.TurnTheTideRx.org.
- Print copies of the Pain Profile and distribute them at community health fairs and other appropriate events.
- Educate your patients on the effective alternative to pain killers that physical therapy can offer them.
- Let us know how you’re helping to fight the epidemic so that we can share your stories with your fellow members and peers.
2015 New York State Opioid Poisoning, Overdose and Prevention Report
The Opioid Epidemic: What PTs and PTAs Need to Know (Check list)
Physical Therapy: A Safe Alternative to Opioids for Pain Management
Pain Profile: Assess Your Pain
CDC: Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain
Centers for Disease Control website