Manage Pain Safely and Sustainably: Insist on Physical Therapy

Addiction arising from opioids used to manage pain is a growing concern among patients as well as doctors. The good news is there is a safe alternative, and it is not a pill.

A recent opinion piece in TIME magazine says that when it comes to pain treatment, unless a “fundamental mindset” is changed—a change that includes being “insistent” on the use of physical therapy to manage pain—no real progress will be made in the fight to end the opioid abuse epidemic in the United States.

Aim for Recovery of Function, Not Elimination of Pain

In “We’re All Responsible For Our Opioid Reliance—Even Patients,” Andre Machado, chairman of the Neurological Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, describes how opioids are little more than a “quick fix” for pain that miss what should be the true goal of pain treatment, which he describes as “recovery of function, not complete resolution of pain.”

This crisis is a failure of our health care ecosystem and our quick-fix culture. We can all share the blame: physicians who feel anxious to meet patients’ expectations, pharma companies that oversell opioid benefits (and downplay the risks), insurers that fail to flag patients receiving high volumes of opioid prescriptions (and not properly reimbursing therapy) and patients who demand passive treatment.”

Insist on Physical Therapy

 To truly change outcomes, “we all need to first change the metric of success” from focusing solely on the elimination of pain to helping patients better understand and manage their pain. Part of that shift must include becoming “insistent on the use of physical therapy as an integral treatment component.”

In a pilot program to treat more than 1,000 patients with chronic leg and back pain with physical therapy and counseling as a first-line response, the key metric of success will be “restoration of function.”

SOURCE: American Physical Therapy Association