Costs vs. Benefits of Opioid Use
The abuse of prescription opioid medication in the United States has risen
to epidemic proportions. Although the CDC guidelines on prescription opioids
recognize that opioids are appropriate under certain circumstances, medical
providers should only consider opioids “only if expected benefits
for both pain and function are anticipated to outweigh risks to the patient.”
Frequent and prolonged opioid use has dangerous side effects, including
addiction, depression, overdose, and withdrawal symptoms after ending
regular use. The magnitude of these risks increases when opioid medication
is prescribed for “chronic” pain lasting more than 90 days.
As a result, the CDC announced that opioids should not be considered the
initial approach for pain management nor a viable substitute for routine therapy.
Given the apparent risks associated with opioid use, the purported benefits
are less evident. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association suggests that opioids are no more effective than nonopioid
pain medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, for treating chronic
back pain or osteoarthritis-related joint pain.
Benefits of Using Physical Therapy for Pain Management
Opioid medication is often prescribed to patients dealing with post-operative
surgical pain, or those suffering from chronic pain. Opioids dull the
intensity of pain by interfering with pain signals heading to the brain.
While opioids may address pain as a symptom, they do nothing to deal with
its underlying cause.
Conversely, physical therapy treats pain by improving a person’s
motion and maintaining their mobility and subsequent quality of life —
the CDC referenced high-quality evidence, suggesting that utilizing exercise
through physical therapy can be a highly effective treatment plan for
pain related to low back conditions, osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia.
Give the high costs and the questionable benefits involving using opioid
medication for pain management; opioid use appears to benefit only a narrow
set of circumstances. The CDC guidelines recognized that opioids are appropriate
for cancer treatment, palliative care, end-of-life care, and certain acute
care situations. As you can see, the circumstances where the benefits
of opioid use outweigh its risks are limited to terminal cases where the
patient’s quality of life is meager. At that point, almost any method
for tackling chronic or recurring pain can yield benefits that outweigh
the risks opioids present to the patient’s health and quality of
life given their prognosis.
Patients should forego the use of prescription opioids for pain management
and consider physical therapy in the following situations:
- To improve functional mobility in addition to pain reduction
- When pain and functional mobility stem from back and joint injuries, inflammation
or nerve conditions such as fibromyalgia
- Prescribed to address temporary pain due to post-operative conditions from surgery
- Prescribed to treat chronic pain
Consult a Knowledgeable Physical Therapist in Monmouth County
Generating awareness for the potential health benefits that physical therapy
can provide regarding pain management can help save a person’s life.
Opioid treatment should be reserved as a last-resort approach for pain
management. Otherwise, it should be used sparingly to supplement nonopioid
alternatives to pain management. At ProFysio Physical Therapy, we are
committed to arming our patients with the knowledge necessary to help
them evaluate the best approach to managing their pain.
Our physical therapists are licensed doctors with specialized training in the latest treatment
techniques that optimize the potential for maximum rehabilitation and recovery.
For more information, call ProFysio Physical Therapy at (732) 333-6360 or
contact us online and
schedule a free consultation regarding your medical options today.