Money & Business

Physical Therapy Group Encourages Patients to Swap Painkillers for PT

By / Jun 14, 2016 (iStock/Thinkstock)

With a new #ChoosePT opioid awareness campaign, the American Physical Therapy Association has joined a chorus of associations and government groups that are speaking out about the opioid epidemic in America.

Physical therapy can help patients avoid surgery or improve their mobility or balance. PT can also help people recover from sports injuries or manage conditions like heart disease or diabetes. The American Physical Therapy Association, which last week launched a new #ChoosePT opioid awareness campaign, is urging more Americans to consider PT as an alternative to opioids for the reduction or elimination of pain.

“We know people are generally aware of the benefits of physical therapy,” said Erin Wendel, senior media relations specialist for APTA. “But the high [rate of] opioid prescribing makes it clear people aren’t getting physical therapy often enough or soon enough for pain management.”

Wendel’s insight is especially poignant after the Anoka County, Minnesota, medical examiner revealed that an accidental overdose of the opioid fentanyl caused the death of the musician Prince in April. Although much about his death remains shrouded in mystery, many sources have theorized that Prince was taking opioids to manage chronic pain.

But the famous musician isn’t alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which also recommends physical therapy as an alternative to opioids, sales of prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999. In 2012, prescribers wrote 259 million prescriptions for pain medication, which would be enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills. And more than 165,000 people in the United States have died from opioid overdoses since 1999.

“Our goal is to remind patients that they have a right to choose safe alternatives and manage their pain without the risks of opioids,” Wendel said. “Our goal is also to encourage patients and providers to discuss and choose safe, non-drug alternatives for pain.”

APTA is splashing the #ChoosePT message across billboards, airwaves, and screens around the U.S. It’s also relying on its state chapters to spread the word, especially in states the CDC has identified as having high rates of opioid overdose deaths or high rates of prescriptions, including Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

In March, the CDC issued new guidelines stating that opioid drugs should be a last-resort treatment for chronic pain. Some medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, while acknowledging the seriousness of the epidemic, warned that tight restrictions could limit physicians’ discretion in caring for patients.

By joining the national conversation, APTA intends to remind patients and prescribers that they have choices in managing chronic pain. Patients and prescribers “don’t have to lead with the most dangerous option,” Wendel said.

Instead, APTA hopes they will #ChoosePT.

Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. More »

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