Every day, 91 Americans die from an overdose caused by pain medication, including prescription opioids. It’s been a looming crisis in America for over a decade. However, now it’s a health emergency. According to the CDC, more than 60% of drug overdose deaths are caused by pain medication, adding up to more than half a million deaths caused by opioids within five years. As the opioid crisis in America gains national attention, so too does the question as to whether there are any viable alternatives to managing pain.
In fact, studies are proving more often that physical therapy may be even more beneficial in helping manage pain than opioids and even surgery.
The Cons Of Pain Medication
Opioids and pain medication, in general, are usually the go-to methods of dealing with pain. From over-the-counter pills to prescription opioids, Americans are running up the request for pain meds. However, interestingly enough, as a number of prescription opioids sold quadrupled within 10 years, there had not been an increase in reported pain. In other words, as the usage of pain medication increased, the reports of pain did not increase at all. The CDC and other governmental agencies are still researching as to the direct reason why this is the case, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse has determined that it’s most likely due to the extremely negative aspects of opioids as well as their ineffectiveness.
- Opioids are extremely addictive. Just under 30% of patients who use opioids for chronic pain misuse them and up to 12% of users become addicted to them.
- They can lead to other drug use. Between 4% and 6% of patients who use opioids begin using heroin.
- Opioids can help manage pain, but they do little to solve the problem of where the pain is coming from. In essence, opioids are largely ineffective when it comes to living a pain-free life without the need for continuing medication.
Physical Therapy – The Proven Alternative To Using Opioids
The CDC recommends against using medication to treat pain, whether chronic or acute. According to their guidelines, there are better ways of managing pain that have more benefits with limited risks. In fact, the CDC says, there are other treatments that reduce opioid use and surgery. Furthermore, you may even avoid these things altogether.
One of the top recommendation is physical therapy. Physical therapy, says the CDC guidelines, can deal effectively with chronic pain.
“There is high-quality evidence that exercise therapy (a prominent modality in physical therapy) for hip or knee osteoarthritis reduces pain and improves function immediately after treatment and that the improvements are sustained for at least two to six months”, says the guidelines.
Physical therapy works to reduce pain. It also improves function and mobility, two things that opioids are ineffective in handling.