Blue Sky Therapy Blog

Chronic Pain: Physical Therapy Option Over Opioids

by Rachel Brainard

opiodsChronic pain exacts a terrible toll on human well-being. More than 10 percent of Americans suffer from pain every day, according to the National Institutes of Health, and many more suffer from it sporadically. Academic research has found that pain is one of the biggest sources of unhappiness. Because of chronic pain, the use of opioids has become a public-health crisis – playing a role in some 50,000 overdose deaths in the United States last year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends safe alternatives like physical therapy for the management of most non-cancer-related pain. Physical therapists partner with patients, their families, and other health care professionals to manage pain, often reducing or eliminating the need for opioids. Research has shown that a simple education session with a physical therapist can lead to improved function, range of motion, and decreased pain.

Providers and payers should encourage physical therapy over opioids in many instances including:
  • When patients want to get to the root cause of pain, not just mask it
  • When pain or function problems are especially related to lower back pain, hip or knee osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia (among many others)
  • When the pain lasts longer than 90 days

Many payers already cover non-opioid pain management and treatment services to some degree, but they often limit the duration of services or require administrative actions that could create barriers to care. Given the massive opioid public health crisis, it is time for providers and insurance companies to prioritize physical therapy as a front-line treatment for chronic pain.

Are you a provider or patient? Either way, contact us today and let us find an opioid alternative solution to relieve your “pain.”


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