According to CBS News, one in three Americans were prescribed opioids in 2015. About 5% of these individuals obtained the drugs through illicit means, and 0.8% reported being fully addicted to opioids.
Most people obtain opioids legally, getting a prescription from a legitimate doctor for pain. Unfortunately, a small percentage of individuals who innocently begin taking opioids for pain end up dealing with a full-fledged addiction down the road.
Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center said “…studies of chronic opioid therapy found that all patients who developed problems with opioid use had a prior history of substance abuse,” and cited a study in which just 4 of 12,000 patients treated with opioids became dependent on the substances.
Pros and Cons of Opioid Therapy for Chronic Pain Sufferers
Opioids can be useful to those who truly need them (individuals who experience chronic pain that is not resolved via physiotherapy or some other means or are receiving palliative or end-of-life care, for example). However, besides having the potential to be abused, this type of drug has additional drawbacks. Opioids can cause:
- Delirium (more a concern for elderly patients)
- Decreased cognitive performance
- Significant withdrawal symptoms when discontinued
Thankfully, opioids are not the only treatment option for people who deal with chronic pain. For some of these individuals, physiotherapy, a drug-free treatment, is the solution.
Avoid Opioids and Control Pain with Physiotherapy
Some individuals will find that their chronic pain lessens or is eliminated through physiotherapy. Physiotherapy is a drug-free, exercise-based treatment that can be very effective at treating pain as well as a host of other health issues.
A physiotherapist is a first-line healthcare provider who facilitates a physiotherapy program. In Canada, individuals do not need a referral to see a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist assists those who are injured, ill, or have a disability via exercise and movement, manual therapy, advice, and education.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, physiotherapy is a recommended non-opioid approach to pain control. The American Physical Therapy Association suggested that patients consider physiotherapy when…
- They are not open to trying prescribed opioids.
- They want the cause of the pain to be resolved, not masked.
- “Pain or function problems are related to low back, hip or knee osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia. The CDC cites ‘high-quality evidence’ supporting exercise as part of a physical therapy treatment plan for those familiar conditions.”
- They have been experiencing pain for more than 90 days (pain that lasts at least 3 months is considered chronic).
- Opioids have been prescribed to them for pain. “Even in situations when opioids are prescribed, the CDC recommends that patients should receive ‘the lowest effective dosage,’ and opioids ‘should be combined’ with non-opioid therapies such as (physiotherapy).”