It’s no secret that the country is in the midst of an incredibly deadly epidemic. The opioid epidemic has taken the lives of thousands of people and the statistics are only getting worse. One of the biggest reasons for the epidemic is the misuse of prescription opioids. In fact, roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them. This is why health professionals are being urged to consider opioid alternatives for pain management. Below we’ll take a look at some of the movements and alternatives that are currently being used in place of opioids, as well as just how bad the epidemic is.
The Epidemic by the Numbers
A survey from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School reported that of the American adults prescribed opioids, nearly 60% of them keep the leftover pills. But it doesn’t stop there, the survey also reveals that 1 in 5 of those Americans shares their prescription with someone else. It’s no wonder that since 1999, the number of opioid-related deaths has quadrupled.
Earlier this year, the CDC released their own efforts to combat the opioid epidemic with guidelines physicians should consider before prescribing. The report’s promotion of physical therapy as an effective and ultimate alternative is what actually prompted the APTA’s #ChoosePT campaign.
Opioid Alternatives For Pain Management
Physical Therapy and the #ChoosePT Movement
It’s no coincidence that Pain Awareness Month in September is followed by National Physical Therapy Month in October. But it’s November now, and the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) #ChoosePT campaign is still going strong.
Geared to educate the public about the dangers of opioids while promoting physical therapy as the best alternative, it’s a campaign that just may slow down the opioid epidemic. #ChoosePT is reaching millions of Americans with national campaigns across popular websites, magazines, and a variety of radio stations. And with the simple slogan of “Don’t mask the pain with opioids. Treat it with physical therapy”, it’s a message making the impact that we need.
Depending on the injury, many patients are opting for a steroid injection. If a patient is having a muscle spasm or nerve pain, injections with local anesthetics or other medications can help short-circuit the pain. Steroids are not an addictive property, and can often be a much safer alternative, especially if the recovery time from the injury is expected to be short. There are other anti-inflammatory medications that you can also consider to reduce pain and swelling as well. These are some great opioid alternatives for pain management.
There are a handful of other alternative medicines that have been known to help recovery from injuries. Holistic methods like acupuncture and deep-tissue massages are two of the most popular opioid alternatives for pain management. These will provide pain relief and recovery from those suffering from an injury.
Some other emerging opioid alternatives for pain management are CBD and THC. Seen as a controversial alternative by some, many patients are turning to the cannabinoid for pain relief.
A Physical Therapist’s Role in the Epidemic
It’s all too easy to point the finger at the physicians who prescribe them. However, the opioid epidemic is everyone’s problem and responsibility. Medical professionals must continue to educate their patients on how and when to use opioids, as well as how and when to dispose of them.
As for the PT’s role in the epidemic, they get the wonderful opportunity to work with those who chose physical therapy over opioids. Don’t miss the chance to congratulate them for choosing to treat the pain rather than masking it.
Keep in mind that most patients may feel discouraged because physical therapy may not offer the instant relief they need. Let your patients know that opioids are temporary high-risk solutions and there are known instances where they are ineffective.