Initiated in 1992, National Physical Therapy Month is observed to recognize and celebrate the transformative power of physical therapy. With opioid pain medications coming under increasing scrutiny for their side effects, physical therapy (PT) now has a whole new meaning as a pain management option. As the nation observes National Physical Therapy month in October, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) encourages people to learn about the benefits of physical therapy as a safe, nonopioid alternative for managing pain through its public awareness campaign #Choose PT.
Taking serious note of the overuse of addictive prescription drugs for the treatment of chronic pain, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines in March this year recommending nondrug approaches as an alternative. The guidelines list physical therapy as a preferred option for the treatment of chronic pain without the use of opioids. According to the guidelines, PT is the right option when:
- The risks of opioid use outweigh the benefits. These risks include depression, overdose, and addiction, plus withdrawal symptoms.
- Patients want to improve mobility and function in addition to managing pain. Physical therapy relieves pain through exercises.
- Pain or function problems are associated with low back pain, hip or knee osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia. The CDC says that reliable studies support exercise as part of a PT treatment plan for these common conditions.
- If the pain is chronic, that is, it lasts 90 days.
The CDC recommends that when opioids are used, they should be combined with nonpharmacologic therapy and nonopioid pharmacologic therapy, as appropriate. The guidelines recognize that prescription opioids are suitable in cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care, and also for certain acute care situations.
Chronic pain affects millions of Americans. Throughout Physical Therapy Month, APTA will focus on spreading awareness about the benefits of PT as a safe alternative for long-term pain management and also about the dangers of opioids.
Physical therapy is a key element in the chronic pain management programs offered by multispecialty health care centers in Brooklyn. In professional facilities, physical therapists work with other health care specialists to provide patients with customized treatment to resolve pain and enhance quality of life.