No one wants to live a life in pain, but prescription opioids aren’t always the best choice. Painkillers like Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin certainly come with risks. Opioid risks include withdrawal symptoms, addiction, depression and overdose. And today, the use of opioids is epidemic. Physical therapy is a safer alternative without the risks and side effects associated with taking opioids.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes that prescription opioid are appropriate in some cases, such as end-of-life care and cancer treatment but recommends nonopioid treatment for other types of pain, including physical therapy.
Physical therapy should be implemented when patients want to do more than mask pain, when the risks of opioid use outweigh the gains, pain associated with the back, knee or hip and when pain lasts more than 90 days. The CDC states that opioids should not be the first line of treatment for pain. While opioids reduce pain by interrupting pain signals, a physical therapist treats pain through movement to improve quality of life and movement. And there is evidence that supports the treatment of physical therapy for back, knee and hip pain. When pain lasts for more than 90 days, the risks of continued opioid use greatly increase. Doctors should only prescribe opioids when the benefits will outweigh patient risk.
Physical therapy not only treats the pain but its source. Affected areas are treated with certain exercises. There may be strengthening exercise, low-impact aerobic training, stretching and pain relief exercises in a physical therapy treatment plan. With low-impact aerobic training, you might use a stationary bike to warm up before stretching exercises. Your physical therapy will ensure that you don’t stretch too much. Your own body weight, machines and resistance bands may be used during physical therapy. With pain relief exercise, affected areas are targeted to make you stronger and more flexible. A physical therapist may even prescribe home exercises.
“Given the substantial evidence gaps on opioids, uncertain benefits of long-term use and potential for serious harm, patient education and discussion before starting opioid therapy are critical so that patient preferences and values can be understood and used to inform clinical decisions,” the CDC states. Here are some facts that may even sway you more.
- Addiction is a relapsing brain disease
- In 2015, 2 million Americans had a substance use disorder associated with prescription opioids
- Many developed a heroin addiction
Call Elliott Physical Therapy today and speak with one of our expert physical therapists!