Physical therapy is best choice for pain management

August 29, 2016 by Laura Dawahare, University of Kentucky

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sales of prescription opioids have quadrupled in the United States since 1999, even though there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain reported.

People with chronic conditions unrelated to cancer often depend on prescription opioids to manage their pain. As the volume of opioid usage has increased, so has the misuse, abuse and overdose of these drugs in Kentucky and across the United States.

The statistics are sobering:

  • As many as one in four people who receive prescription opioids long term for non-cancer pain in primary care settings suffers with addiction.
  • Heroin-related overdose deaths more than quadrupled between 2002 and 2014, and people addicted to prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to be addicted to heroin.
  • More than 165,000 people in the United States have died from opioid pain-medication-related overdoses since 1999.
  • Every day, more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing .

The CDC released guidelines in March 2016 urging prescribers to reduce the use of opioids in favor of safer alternatives in the treatment of chronic pain. Physical therapy is one of the recommended non-opioid alternatives.

If you or someone you know has pain not related to cancer, consider physical therapy as a safer alternative for managing your pain. Physical therapists diagnose and treat movement disorders that may be contributing to your pain and will develop an active treatment plan specific to your goals.

A 2008 study following 20,000 people over a period of 11 years found that people who exercised regularly reported less pain. Manual therapy can reduce pain and improve mobility so that people have more pain-free movement. That, in turn, promotes more activity, which reduces pain even further. Exercise and manual therapy are two components of an active treatment plan that may be used by a physical therapist to help manage pain.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has launched a national campaign called #ChoosePT to raise awareness about the risks of opioids and the choice of as a safe alternative for long-term pain management. 

Explore further: New analysis recommends responsible prescription of opioids to pain patients

More information: To find out more or to locate a physical therapist in Kentucky, check out the consumer information link on the APTA website at:

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not rated yet Aug 29, 2016
I agree that physical therapy is good for those with chronic pain, however sometimes pain medication is also needed to some extent. Also medicare will only pay for physical therapy up until no more improvement is noted. Improvement usually means things like range of motion, being able to move easier. You can't see the relief of pain, so how do you measure that, and for some of us, we need such therapy frequently. I know, they give you exercises to do at home, and even if you do them, as I have, the therapist does much more. Things like deep tissue massage and use of equipment that the average person does not have at home are something that might benefit a person with a chronic condition that will never go away. (Think Ehlers-Danlos syndrome) My last therapist did a deep tissue massage for me that at first hurt terribly, I felt like he was ripping me to shreds, but by the end I felt utterly relaxed and had much less pain and more mobility.

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