Pain is composed of a multifactorial perception of physical and emotional well-being and can be treated successfully with drug-free management strategies, such as physical therapy. Now let’s take a look at the opioid epidemic, how it started and how physical therapy can help fight this epidemic.
Did you know:
- An estimated 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain
- This adds up to medical costs of over $600 billion per year, or about $2000 per person per year.
- 259 million prescriptions for opioids were written in 2012 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- An analysis of 2797 heroin users in 2005 reported that 75% of those who began abusing heroin stated that their first opioid was a prescription drug.
- An estimated 15 million people worldwide are addicted to opioids.
- 69 000 people die from opioid addiction each year.
One of the largest predictors of chronic pain is the severity of acute pain (short-term pain).
Therefore, the appropriate management of acute pain is fundamental to preventing the progression of pain to chronic pain (think physical therapy!). Unfortunately, in an attempt to manage acute pain The Joint Commission in the US created new pain management standards in 2001. With the new standards, the pharmaceutical industry began a massive marketing and educational campaign to promote the use of opioids reassuring the medical community that addiction was rare. This led to a big increase in the prescription of opioids to manage pain. There is a demand for a new healthcare strategy that includes more drug-free treatments for pain management and physical therapy vs opioids is believed to be the safest and most effective drug-free pain management approach. Early access to physical therapy decreases costs, including imaging, drugs and surgery. Referral to physical therapy is associated with reduced opioid prescriptions in individuals with a new onset of low back pain. Direct-access to physical therapy has been shown to reduce medical costs, lost time from work, the number of visits per episode of care, and episodes or recurrence!
If pain is interfering or holding your back from performing the activities you love, reach out to a performance physical therapist!
Physical Therapists’ Role in Solving the Opioid Epidemic
Paul E. Mintken, Jeff R. Moore, and Timothy W. Flynn
Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 2018 48:5, 349-353