Physical therapy vs. opioid use in chronic pain treatment [National Physical Therapy Month]

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National Physical Therapy Month takes place in October each year to raise awareness of physical therapy as a healthy and effective alternative to opioids.

The presence of pain is one of the most common reasons why people seek help from a healthcare professional. National research shows that chronic pain, defined as pain lasting longer than 3 months, affects roughly 100 million American citizens.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is “high-quality evidence” that treatments provided by physical therapists (PTs) are especially effective at reducing pain and improving function in cases of low back pain, fibromyalgia, and hip and knee osteoarthritis. Additionally, a number of studies show the efficacy of physical therapy interventions in preventing, minimizing, and, in some cases, eliminating pain in patients post-surgery, in patients with cancer, and in other clinical scenarios.

It is evident that opioids have a role in addressing pain. Nevertheless, our modern society too often turns to quick-fix solutions for their problems, disregarding the risk they take upon themselves by doing so. According to the CDC, approximately 9 out of every 10 Americans who are at least 60 years old say they have taken no less than 1 prescription drug within the last month. As far as pain and prescribing opioids go, this desire for a quick fix not only can be ineffective, it also can be dangerous. Frequently, when patients experience pain, non-opioid choices are safer, more effective, and longer lasting.

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According to the CDC, in addition to the risks of addiction, overdose, and death, side effects of opioid use include:

  • tolerance
  • physical dependence
  • increased sensitivity to pain
  • constipation
  • nausea, vomiting, dry mouth
  • confusion
  • depression
  • lowered testosterone levels
  • itching, sweating

(source: Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Hospital Association. May 9, 2016)


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Chronic pain can be considered a disease and can persevere for months or years. When our physical therapists in Hialeah work with patients suffering from pain, they use tests and procedures to determine the underlying causes of that pain and evaluate its intensity, quality, and chronological and physical characteristics. Physical therapists also evaluate patients for risk factors for pain to help avert future pain problems.

Once the reasons for a patient’s pain are recognized, and the patient’s functional and mobility goals are set, the PT plans a personalized treatment strategy combining the most appropriate techniques, including but not limited to exercise, manual therapy, and patient education.

Studies have shown the effectiveness of physical therapy in treating and diminishing pain as well as preventing chronic pain. On the other hand, research on the efficacy of opioids for chronic pain management shows they frequently result in undesirable side effects. Evidence also demonstrates that the usage of opioids can reduce a person’s response to naturally occurring rewards.

Download and fill out the assessment of your pain (or that of your child or family member), prepared by APTA, and take it with you the next time you meet with your physical therapist in Hialeah to help determine the best treatment plan.

Our specialized physical therapy programs are designed to meet your needs for a broad range of acute or chronic illnesses that cause temporary or permanent disability. Our programs combine medical care with rehabilitation services to help re-establish the functional, physical, cognitive and behavioral skills required to live as independently as possible. Physical and occupational therapies will be provided, as well as physician supervision and nursing care.

Physical therapy in Hialeah, FL – learn more here.


The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.