Physical TherapyBack pain and repetitive stress injuries are two of the most common forms of chronic pain. Over 50 million Americans experience some form of chronic pain, which is pain that lasts for three or more months. There are many ways to treat chronic pain, and taking a pill seems like an easy answer for many patients and providers.

Prescriptions for painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet, which are opiate drugs, are on the rise. Unfortunately, with the rise in prescriptions comes a rise in the risk of misuse, abuse, and overdose. Abuse or resale of unused medications can lead to addiction of not just painkillers, but other drugs like heroin. No one wants to live in pain, but you shouldn’t have to put your health and wellness at risk to be pain-free.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the UVM Medical Center are working to help reduce opiate prescription and use. Taking an opioid masks the pain, but does not treat it. One recommended non pill alternative for the treatment of chronic pain is physical therapy.  Working with a physical therapist can help you identify the cause of your pain and treat the pain in a safe and supportive manner.

Physical therapists (PTs) partner with patients, their families, and other health care professionals to manage pain. Working with a PT can reduce or eliminate the need for opioids. PTs treat pain through movement, with the positive side effects of improved mobility, independence, and wellness.

Education about pain and its effect on your body has also been sh
own to treat pain. A physical therapist can work with you to teach you about your pain. They can show you safe ways to move that help to reduce your pain, often in a single session.

The phrase “no pain, no gain” is wrong. Pain is a sign that something needs attention. As a physical therapist, I counter that statement from patients with a simple, “No.” You will have pain after an injury or surgery, but let’s work together to make healthy gains.

October is National Physical Therapy month. The American Physical Therapy Association has launched a campaign, #ChoosePT to help people learn more about the benefits of PT as a safe alternative to opioids.

Learn more about Physical Therapy at the University of Vermont Medical Center, or call (802) 847-7910 for an appointment.

Before you ask for a prescription for pain medicine, ask for a prescription to PT.

Cathy Shearer, MPA, PT, GCS, is an inpatient physical therapist at The University of Vermont Medical Center and a Geriatric Clinical Specialist.  

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