Chronic pain affects at least 100 million American adults, more people than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined. A common treatment of chronic pain has been prescription medications such as opioids codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and tramadol, to name a short list. However, the number of opioid prescriptions has been on the rise, to the point where some states in the U.S. that have more prescriptions written than people living in the state.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since 1999 the sales of prescription opioids in the U.S. have nearly quadrupled. Consequentially, the cost of pain management on the healthcare system is staggering, burdening the U.S. with $560 to $635 billion dollars annually.
Low back pain is one of the most common conditions needing a costly course of treatment. Medicare has seen a 629% increase in expenditures in epidural steroid injections and a 423% increase in expenditures for low back pain over the last five years. In spite of this, the rate of pain is increasing, not decreasing.
Physical therapists are key members of the pain management healthcare team that can provide effective treatment to patients with chronic pain. Physical therapy provides an alternative to prescription opioid use, providing a variety of treatment techniques that have proven effective against chronic pain. Therapists utilize therapeutic dry needling, joint mobilizations, myofascial release, and exercise, providing a safe environment for patients on the path of rehabilitation.
The differentiating factor that separates physical therapy from other types of health care providers is the amount of time spent with patients during treatment visits. During this time physical therapists are also able to educate patients about management of their pain. A goal of patient education is to help the patient understand that pain is a healthy biological response, and that pain and injury are not synonymous.
- Louw A., & Puentedura E. (2013). Therapeutic neuroscience education: Teaching patients about pain: A guide for clinicians. Story City, IA: International Spine and Pain Institute.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Retrieved 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/analysis.html
- Retrieved 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html