It's time to recognize that physical therapy has a key role to play in the fight against opioid addiction. That's the message not only from APTA, which in February released a new opioid-awareness video as part of its ongoing #ChoosePT opioid awareness campaign, but also from national organizations and federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Opioids, the CDC recently stated in its "Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain," come with too many side effects and are far too addictive to be a first-choice treatment for chronic pain. Clinicians, the agency recommends—pointing to physical therapy as 1 of several proven alternatives—"should consider opioid therapy only if expected benefits for both pain and function are anticipated to outweigh risks to the patient."1
As any physical therapist (PT) or physical therapist assistant (PTA) is well aware, physical therapy has a long history as an essential component of interdisciplinary pain management. Still, given the rise of prescription painkillers in recent decades and the belief of many patients that surgical intervention offers a 1-stop solution to their pain-related issues, the profession has struggled to establish its authority in this area.