Visiting Nurse / Hospice Atlanta Blogs

#ChoosePT as an Alternative to Treat Chronic Pain

By Gina Epifano, PT, Director of Rehabilitation, Visiting Nurse

Chronic pain and the use of opioids for chronic pain management have been making headlines in recent months. Statistics show that opioid prescriptions have quadrupled since 1999, with 259 million opioid prescriptions written in 2012. That’s enough for every adult in the United States to have a bottle of pills! Overuse of opioids can lead to overdose, addiction, depression and withdrawal symptoms.

Physical Therapy: a safe and effective alternative to opioids

In response to this health epidemic, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines urging health care professionals to recommend safer alternatives to patients suffering with chronic pain. The CDC guidelines explain that physical therapy is an effective intervention for numerous conditions that can lead to chronic pain, such as low back pain, hip and knee osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has launched a public relations campaign called #ChoosePT to help promote physical therapy as a safe and effective alternative to opioids in the management of chronic pain. Opioids reduce pain by interrupting pain signals to the brain. Physical therapists not only teach pain management techniques, but also focus on improving strength, flexibility and independence through movement and exercise.

As our population ages, management of chronic pain will continue to be an issue that health care providers need to address. Nowhere is this more true than in the home health setting. An overwhelming portion of our patients are elderly, dealing with multiple chronic medical conditions. Older patients that are in pain often limit their mobility to avoid pain. This can lead to patients who become less and less mobile over time, which can actually lead to more stiffness and pain, as well as increased risks for falls. Physical therapy for homebound seniors suffering from chronic pain is an excellent alternative to prescription opioid treatment, or even in conjunction with prescription opioid treatment when it is deemed necessary.

When performing an evaluation in the home, the physical therapist will perform a medication review, assess mobility and fall risk, as well as perform a complete pain assessment. Together with the patient, goals will be discussed and a treatment plan developed. The physical therapist in the home has a unique opportunity to make recommendations to improve patient safety by performing an individualized home safety assessment.

I encourage you to visit APTA’s website for more information on how physical therapy can help manage chronic pain.

If you have questions about whether you qualify for a home physical therapy assessment to help manage your chronic pain issues, I encourage you to contact me at 404-410-7633.