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Drug-free Relief for Chronic Pain: Physical Therapy as an Alternative to Opioids

Physical Therapy as an Alternative to Opioids

No one wants to put their health at risk from the medical side effects of prescription pain pills. That’s why so many physicians recommend physical therapy as an alternative to opioids. Healthcare providers want to help patients manage pain without relying on habit-forming drugs. PT is a low-risk, minimally-invasive way to handle a variety of pain. A physical therapist treats pain through hands-on manipulation, education, and physical activity.

What are CDC recommendations for pain management?

Centers for Disease Control recommends primary care providers maximize non-opioid treatments for chronic pain. Before starting drug treatments, consider alternatives such as physical therapy. When prescribing pain killers, use the lowest possible effective dosage and closely monitor patients for side-effects.

Avoiding Opioids for Chronic Pain

Opioids have long been accepted for their role in acute and terminal pain. However, their use in treating chronic pain is controversial. The opioid epidemic has revealed the dangers of masking long-term pain with drugs rather than treating the deeper cause. Therapists work with clients to the root out of the underlying problems. Using physical therapy as an alternative to opioids is a long-term solution for managing chronic pain. 

Side Effects of Opioids 

Opioids have dangerous side effects such as addiction, depression, overdose, and withdrawal. Other common side-effects are:

  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Physical dependence
  • Respiratory problems

The only “side effects” of physical therapy are improved mobility and a reduction in health problems. PT may reduce the need for more invasive procedures, or it can support post-operative recovery when surgery is warranted.

Benefits of Physical Therapy as an Alternative to Opioids 

Physical Therapy improves the overall quality of life for patients. Sessions help get to the root cause of the pain, rather than masking it with medication. Therapists can identify and treat a variety of health concerns beyond the initial presentation or pain. Patients tend to see better results because they are active participants in their recovery process. 

Referring for Physical Therapy as an Alternative to Opioids 

When patients present with chronic or post-surgical mobility issues, physicians may decide to temporarily prescribe medication to get the pain under control initially. Quickly referring to physical therapy gets individuals off pain meds quickly before addition and adverse side effects set in. To refer a patient for pain management, call our office at 201-833-1333.

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