October is National Physical Therapy Month, and Memorial Health System is once again teaming up with the American Physical Therapy Association and other physical therapists across the country to help promote the use of physical therapy to treat pain as an alternative to opioid use.
“Recent studies show people with chronic low back pain might get ‘modest, short-term pain relief’ from opioids, but when it comes to long-term treatment, evidence to support the effectiveness of opioids is lacking,” MHS Physical Therapist and Director of Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, Jeff Sanborn said.
Physical therapy is a safe and effective alternative to opioids for the long-term treatment of chronic pain. Instead of masking the pain with an opioid, physical therapy may help to resolve the pain.
The risk for misusing prescription opioids is real. “We see a number of people for lower back pain,” Sanborn said. “Instead of treating that pain with an opioid, we use manual therapy, exercise and education, as well as other modalities, to treat the patient, and the success rates are very good.”
The CDC guidelines indicate that opioids may be appropriate for situations including cancer treatment, palliative care, end-of-life care, and certain acute care situations. Still, the CDC guidelines also suggest pairing opioid therapy with nonopioid therapy, and their prescriber checklist recommends trying nonopioid therapy first.
“Patients may choose the kind of treatment they receive,” Sanborn said. “Before accepting a prescription for opioids, I encourage patients to talk to their doctor about related risks and safer alternatives including physical therapy.”