Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain Management

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been on the front lines of the opioid epidemic. According to CDC statistics over 116 million American adults annually experience chronic pain. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts longer than 3 months. The cost of dealing with chronic pain and the opioid epidemic is estimated at approximately $600 billion annually. While opioid treatment can be necessary in certain cases like cancer treatment, hospice care, and for other acute conditions, it has not been shown to be an effective treatment for chronic pain.

While opioid treatment can be effective in reducing pain it does not resolve the underlying conditions that are causing the pain in the first place. Opioids also have several severe side effects including constipation, confusion, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, itching, sweating, depression, addiction (physical dependence), withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them, and possible overdoes due to the body developing a tolerance. While there is no single answer to the opioid epidemic, a collaborative approach involving the patient, multidisciplinary medical providers, payers, and other health professionals can reduce opioid dependence and reduce the pain experienced by the patient.

Physical Therapy functions as a central component of combating opioids and chronic pain by reducing dependence, reducing pain, and improving quality of life. Currently, physical therapists work towards the degree of doctor of physical therapy (DPT) and are classified as experts in human movement. Treatment is determined by their extensive education, current clinical research, and clinical experience to provide a individualized and detailed treatment for each patient. Physical therapy treatment has the ability to work for patients of all ages and ability levels to improve their movement patterns, reduce pain, and improve the overall quality of life. Physical Therapists also work closely with other healthcare professionals including physicians, nutritionists, exercise specialists, and behavioral health specialists, and has the ability to refer their patients to other providers as indicated.

Physical therapy is more than just exercise. It has the ability to look at the patient as a whole person taking into account their goals and health conditions. While exercise is a vital component, treatment can also include manual therapy, stress management techniques, activity modification, and pain neuroscience education for the patient. Through the combination of all treatments, the patient will learn to better manage their pain. Often times all that is needed to start treatment is a prescription from your physician. There are also several insurances where no prescription is required. If you or someone you know is dealing with chronic pain contact one of our offices for more information.