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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

New Guideline Promotes PT for Chronic Pain

Published March 18, 2016 10:40 AM by Katherine Bortz
Chronic pain is becoming a worsening problem in America, with 14.6% of the population living with symptoms daily. Currently, the first line of defense against the condition is through the prescription of opioids such as transdermal fentanyl, and extended-release versions of opioids such as oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone and morphine. While they do alleviate symptoms of the condition, they also have an increased chance for misuse or addiction. Many are beginning to wonder if this is really the best way to go about treating patients.

The CDC recently published its guideline for prescribing opioids and urged healthcare professionals to weigh the benefits of certain therapies with the risks. In this guideline, a conclusion was reached that non-opioid and non-drug options like physical therapy, weight loss for knee osteoarthritis, psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and certain interventional procedures should be attempted first.

This guideline is partially in response to the rising epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose, but it is also in response to the increasing rate of patients who see positive results from these non-drug treatments: "There is high-quality evidence that exercise therapy (a prominent modality in physical therapy) for hip or knee osteoarthritis reduces pain and improves function immediately after treatment and that the improvements are sustained for at least 2-6 months." Other forms of physical and exercise therapies suggested include aerobic, aquatic, and/or resistance exercises for patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip.

The CDC also reports that more compassionate and appropriate care should be offered by healthcare professionals to people suffering from chronic pain, as many live with clinical, psychological and social consequences. These include issues with work productivity, restrictions in complex activities and stigma.

What do you think about the CDC's stance, and what do you think are the best practices for treating those with chronic pain? Let us know in the comments.

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