New recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control to encourage patient’s suffering from chronic pain to seek physical therapy services have been made. This recent push for physical therapy is an attempt to slow down the rate of opioid usage in patients with chronic pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sales of prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999 in the United States. In response, the CDC released opioid prescription guidelines, recognizing that prescription opioids are necessary in certain cases (cancer treatment, end of life care, and in acute care situations), if properly dosed. For other pain management, the CDC recommends non-opioid approaches including physical therapy. The CDC recommends the patients should choose physical therapy when:
The risks of opioid use outweigh the rewards Potential side effects of opioids include depression, overdose, and addiction.
Patients want to do more than mask the pain Opioids reduce the sensation of pain by interrupting pain signals to the brain, while PT’s treat pain through movement while partnering with patients to improve mobility and quality of life.
Pain or function problems are related to low back pain, hip or knee osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia. Exercise is prescribed to reduce pain with these pathologies.
Pain lasts 90 days. Physical therapy supported in the literature as effective in treatment of chronic pain.
How can Physical Therapy help your pain?
Exercise in the immediate can assist with promotion of endorphins which can help reduce pain. In the long run, therapeutic exercise can promote strength and function to reduce joint pain.
Manual therapy techniques have a neurophysiological effect in the immediate which can reduce pain. Long term, manual therapy techniques can improve joint positions and soft tissue extensibility in order to reduce chronic trauma to joints and or surrounding tissues.
Working together, PT and patient, the patient can learn ways to empower themselves to take control of their pain, learning ways to help reduce symptoms and increase function.