Relationship Between Physical Therapy and Opioid Crisis
The United States is the home to a serious opioid crisis. The National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates that 130 people die every day after overdosing on opioids. An estimated 10 million American adults misuse opioids each year. This number is on the rise.
The vast majority of people who abuse opioids started using the drugs as prescribed to manage acute pain after an injury or surgery. The highly addictive prescriptions start a cycle of opioid misuse that can be difficult to stop. The best way to avoid possible opioid prescription misuse is to not prescribe it and to rely on alternative ways to manage pain. If the medication is necessary, taking the lowest possible effective dose for the shortest amount of time can help to minimize addiction risk.
Pain management and physical therapy can go hand in hand. Research shows how early physical therapy can reduce dependence on opioids for patients in pain. It can be an important strategy to reduce drug dependency and fight the opioid crisis. Here are some things to know about pain management in physical therapy.
Impact of Early Physical Therapy
Researchers highlighted how patients with neck, back, shoulder, and knee pain were less likely to take opioids the year after their injury if they started physical therapy early. The research shows that the non-pharmacological approach of physical therapy for pain relief can have significant impacts. Despite a lack of a generalized definition, early physical therapy typically takes place in the first 90 days of the start of the pain.
Reduced Opioid Usage
Patients who started early physical therapy to control pain also took smaller dosages of opioids if they continued to take them. This is good news for reducing the possibility that a patient will become dependent on opioids or develop a tolerance for their current dosage.
Initial Prescription Dose
There is no doubt that physical therapy can be an effective pain management strategy for many patients. However, its effectiveness relative to reducing dose sizes for opioids depends on a variety of factors. This includes the initial prescription dose recommended by the doctor and the type of injury. For instance, larger doses of opioids tend to be prescribed for neck injuries. This could be necessary for the level of pain from a neck injury, even though the amount of opioid exposure is increased. This might make physical therapy slightly less effective for neck injury patients.
The need for referrals for physical therapy from primary care doctors and other specialists can slow down a patient’s access to starting PT early. This process will vary based on a patient’s insurance plan and the state they live in. Starting physical therapy as quickly as possible can have a significant impact on the need for long-term opioid usage.
Ready to Get Started?
Manhattan Physical Therapy and Pain Center is a leader in pain relief and injury recovery, and we look forward to helping you with all your physical therapy goals. Call us at (212) 213-3480 or contact us today to set an appointment.