If you keep up with the news, then you probably already know that right now our country is in the throes of what appears to be an epidemic regarding the use of prescription medications and opioids. It’s a heartbreaking realization to come to, but it’s the truth, and it’s caused practitioners and patients alike a world of pain and anxiety.
There is good reason for the panic. In 2016 alone, 116 people died each day from opioid-related drug overdoses. Some 11.5 million Americans misused prescription painkillers in some way, costing an estimated $504 million in economic costs.
Some researchers even feel that many people who would otherwise be able to work have ended up on unemployment or disability checks because they would fail a drug test. As mind-blowing as these numbers are, to a person who uses prescription pain medication for pain relief, opioids may seem like the only option.
Fortunately, there is another way to manage your pain: physical therapy. Contact our office today to find out more about how physical therapy can help you ditch the pain meds for good and get back to living a healthy, normal life.
Why opioids are never the best option
When you have chronic pain, severe injury, surgery or significant trauma, your brain cannot produce enough opioids to keep up with the demand. Prescription medication mimics the chemicals your body naturally produces, relieving pain, but they do not help your body heal.
To understand why opioids are so dangerous, you first have to understand how your brain processes pain. Let’s say you hit your knee really hard on a table. Pain receptors in your skin register that something happened to your knee.
Those receptors send signals to your brain and spinal cord. There, your brain processes those signals as pain, and your body produces natural opioids to stop them. These chemicals slow your breathing, create a feeling of well-being and block pain signals so you can return to a pain-free state.
This kind of relief can be very tempting and seem helpful in the moment because you just want to get on with your day without having to deal with annoying, aching pains. However, this relief is false — it’s only a bandaid. You’ve still hurt yourself, and pills do not solve the underlying problem and cause of your pain, not to mention they cause a plethora of harmful side effects.
Chronic conditions do not equal a need for pain medication
Oftentimes, you’ll hear that r people who suffer with arthritis pain must have expensive surgery, steroid injections, and prescription medications to cope with their pain. Sometimes, these treatments can actually benefit patients with severe arthritis, but more often than not, physical therapy is the safer, more natural route they should be going down!
Arthritis does not discriminate. It can affect anyone at any age, although it tends to be found often in elderly patients. A JAMA study states that “[rheumatoid] arthritis (RA) occurs in about 5 per 1000 people and can lead to severe joint damage and disability.” Arthritis is also one of the top causes for disability in America. If this harmful condition goes untreated by a professional, patients suffering with it can experience debilitating symptoms for a long time.
Why choosing physical therapy over opioids is important
If you are one of the more than 116 million people who struggle with chronic pain, chances are you are also limited in your ability to walk, stand, run, move, work, play and perform daily activities. You’ll be relieved to know that there is a better option for pain relief: physical therapy.
Working with a physical therapist provides you ample assistance during your pain relief journey. You may have a team of therapists to help you, and this sense of community can help address the mental toll pain takes on a person in a way that opioids cannot.
Physical therapists address all of these functions and more as they work with you to strengthen your body, improve your balance and stability and enhance your quality of life.
They are skilled movement specialists whose job is not only to manage pain, but also to improve function. Your physical therapy program may include stretches, ultrasound, manual therapies and a combination of ice and heat for pain relief, but it will not stop there. They will begin to address mobility, flexibility and strength as they apply to the activities of your daily life.
The benefits of physical therapy don’t stop with your movement.They reach your brain as well. Chronic pain and prescription pain medication use can lead to anxiety, depression and isolation. The more exercise a person gets, the better their overall mood and morale are. Physical therapy can help you improve your health in a variety of ways, but you must be willing to put in the necessary work!
The healing techniques of physical therapy
You might be thinking “I’ve heard about physical therapy. What good are a few stretches going to do me?” Don’t doubt the healing properties of a physical therapist’s techniques! Through advanced diagnostic procedures, your physical therapist can uncover the source of your pain and find ways to address it for long-term health and mobility. Best of all, physical therapy is a drug-free way to manage chronic pain.
Since opioids mask the pain without treating its underlying cause, many people are choosing to forgo pain meds altogether in favor of a more natural treatment.
Fortunately, physical therapy not only helps relieve pain, it addresses what is causing the pain in the first place. A physical therapist is a highly trained medical professional, but he or she also is an expert in the science of movement, and they will be able to properly assess your condition in a way that you simply cannot by just Googling your symptoms. From there, they can create a unique, special treatment program for your recovery.
You can expect to learn many different forms of exercise including targeted stretches and other methods to perform on your own at home as you progress in your treatment. Of course, your therapist will always be happy to help you adjust methods as needed, so be sure to let them know if something is uncomfortable for you or causing you pain!
Find effective relief today without the use of pain medication
If you’ve been taking opioids and reading the headlines on the news, you’re probably worried about your health. It’s time to take a stand and make a change. Advocate for your own health today. Contact our physical therapist today and find out how physical therapy can help you live a full, pain-free, functional life — WITHOUT the use of opioids.