How Physical Therapy Can Help Solve the Opioid Epidemic

A woman deciding whether or not to take opioids.

We don’t even need to mention the severity of the opioid epidemic these days, but just to point out some of the numbers, according to drugabuse.gov, here are some quick facts:

  • 128 people per day die due to an opioid related overdose. Keep in mind that not all hospitalizations or overdoses result in death, meaning that the actual number of overdoses is astronomically higher.
  • 21-29% of people prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them. 8-12% develop an opioid use disorder. 4-6% transoition to heroin.
  • 80% of people who use heroin started by misusing prescription opioids.
  • Maricopa.gov reports that in Maricopa County, Arizona alone, around three people died every day as a result of opioid overdose for the entire year of 2019.
  • The American Medical Association reported in September 2020 that there has been an increase in opioid related deaths in 2020.

The statistics could go on, but we think you get the picture. At Petersen Physical Therapy, we are proud to be part of the solution, and the CDC has made recommendations for alternatives to addictive medicines in pain management.

CDC Guidelines for opioids vs physical therapy

According to the CDC, patients should choose physical therapy over opioids when:

  • The risks of pioid use outweigh the rewards
  • Patients want to do more than mask the pain
  • Pain or function problems are related to low back pain, hip or knee osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia
  • Opioids are prescribed for pain
  • Pain lasts for 90 days or more

Sources: choosept.com and cdc.gov.

Why physical therapy is superior to opioid medication management

Physical therapy is known as one of the least invasive and most conservative forms of pain management. This is because we use your body’s existing abilities to heal your body. Through various strengthening exercises, mobilization exercises, and manual therapies, physical therapists help patients achieve rapid recoveries for their various physical problems.

  • You will be more aware of what is causing your pain, and how to fix it in the future.
  • You won’t be putting yourself at risk of possible dependence disorders.
  • You will have knowledge of how your body works and how the ways you move affect your pain levels.
  • You will save money that would have gone towards more aggressive treatments.

This is not to say that other therapies, such as surgeries, medication, etc. are never necessary. It is simply to say that we believe it is almost always worth it to try physical therapy first. There is a great chance it will work for you. If it doesn’t, you’ll be better off than when you started when you decide to choose another option. You’ll be stronger and armed with better tools to manage your pain.

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