Opioid Use


In recent news, you have likely heard of the ominous “Opioid Epidemic.” Though this phrasing sounds like it may be a little overkill, the misuse of opioids is nothing short of an epidemic in the healthcare industry. It is a serious national crisis affecting millions of Americans negatively each year. Though sales of prescription opioids have nearly quadrupled in recent years, the number of Americans reporting an actual improvement in pain with prescription opioid intervention is minimal. Here are some facts to illustrate this issue from The National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • The Midwestern region saw opioid overdoses increase 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017
  • Roughly 21 to 29 percent of people who were prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.
  • 4 to 6 percent of people who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.

Clearly, the use of prescription opioids for the treatment of pain is not a safe long-term solution for chronic pain management. The best first line of defense against chronic pain? Exercise! Do you feel like you are in too much pain, are too tired, or are too unmotivated to exercise? Then I have some really great news for you, so read on!

Researchers have found that people who were treated in physical therapy after diagnosis of the 4 most common musculoskeletal conditions – back pain, knee pain, neck pain, shoulder pain – were less likely to be prescribed opioids for pain management down the road. This is huge! If we can use exercise and physical therapy in the treatment of pain, not only can we manage chronic pain better but we can prevent dangerous addictive behaviors around opioid use. In addition, a variety of other body systems benefit from physical exercise including cardiovascular, integumentary, and nervous systems.

 Here are some specific reasons why Physical Therapy is a better treatment option for pain compared to prescription opioids:

-PT gets to the root cause of the issue rather than masking the pain with medications.

-The CDC suggests PT over opioid use particularly with chronic conditions (pain lasting 90 days or more).

-Side effects from physical therapy, such as muscle soreness, are much less significant compared to side effects of prescription drugs, such as withdrawal symptoms, depression, overdose, addition.

So, if you have worried that you are in too much pain, in too poor of health in general, or that physical therapy will harm you, hopefully now you can see how physical therapy is the best first line of defense regarding pain management. Exercise is the best medicine!