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Physical Therapy: The Safe and Effective Alternative to Opioids

Physical Therapy: The Safe and Effective Alternative to Opioids
October 18, 2018 Janet Long

Physical Therapy: The Safe and Effective Alternative to Opioids

Morris Hospital Lead Physical Therapist

October is National Physical Therapy month, and we are spotlighting the American Physical Therapy Association’s initiative to promote physical therapy as a safe and effective alternative for pain relief to opioid use.

Opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, morphine and fentanyl have been prescribed to treat acute pain for decades. However, they have been increasingly prescribed to treat chronic pain since 1990. These drugs have several side effects, including constipation, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness and decreased alertness. More concerning, chronic use can lead to increased opioid tolerance and increased pain sensitivity which means higher doses will be required to treat the same reports of pain.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that America is in an opioid epidemic with over 191 million opioid prescriptions written for American patients in 2017. An average 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day. Although these numbers include heroin and synthetic opioids as well as prescription opioids, research has found that approximately 80% of heroin users first abused prescription opioids and 4-6% of people who abuse prescription opioids will transition to heroin. These statistics are particularly alarming when 8-12% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain will develop an opioid disorder.

Physical therapy is a proven alternative to opioid use for both acute and chronic pain. Rather than using opioid drugs to simply mask the symptoms, physical therapy can work to correct the underlying musculoskeletal condition. Whether you have a new injury, or a chronic complaint, your physical therapist can use stretching, strengthening, modalities (moist heat, ice, ultrasound, electrical stimulation) and manual techniques to help correct the flexibility and strength imbalances that are contributing to or causing your pain. Physical therapy has been proven to be one of the most effective treatment options for chronic conditions such as Fibromyalgia, low back pain, neck pain, plantar fasciitis and arthritis.

One of the most exciting benefits of physical therapy is that the patient will walk away with the knowledge of what THEY can do to manage and treat their own symptoms. Your therapist will empower you to use the techniques and exercises you learn for lifelong management of your condition.

Morris Hospital provides physical therapy services at the Diagnostic & Rehabilitative Center in Morris, and at the Yorkville Campus and Ridge Road Campus in Channahon. Your physical therapist will work with you to develop a treatment plan to help you manage your pain at the first visit. For more information, visit