Happy National PT Month from your favorite physical therapists at Reischl PT!
In honor of PT Month, check out this interesting release from the American Physical Therapy Association about the benefits of physical therapy in treating acute and chronic back pain, as well as the APTA's latest quick reference resources about physical therapy vs opioids in managing back pain.
Physical Therapy Is Effective in Treating Pain and Preventing Chronic Pain
"Studies have established the efficacy of physical therapy in treating and reducing pain as well as
preventing chronic pain. For example:
• Low back pain. A review of more than 60 randomized controlled trials evaluating
exercise therapy for adults with low back pain found that such treatment can decrease
pain, improve function, and help people return to work.39 The American College of
Physicians states that “non-pharmacologic interventions are considered first-line
options in patients with chronic low back pain because fewer harms are associated with
these types of therapies than with pharmacologic options.”40
• Before and after surgery. A review of 35 randomized controlled studies with a total of
nearly 3,000 patients found that in patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty,
preoperative exercise and education led to significant reductions in pain, shorter lengths
of stay postoperatively, and improvements in function.41
• Arthritis. Studies have shown that therapeutic exercise programs can reduce pain and
improve physical function among individuals with hip and knee osteoarthritis.42,43
Meanwhile, research on the efficacy of opioids for long-term pain management shows they often
result in unwanted side effects. Evidence also shows that the use of opioids can decrease a person’s response to naturally occurring rewards.
Low back pain. One review of the literature found that “opioids do not seem to expedite return to work in injured workers or improve functional outcomes of acute back pain in primary care.” And for chronic back pain, there is “scant evidence of efficacy…Opioids seem to have short-term analgesic efficacy for chronic back pain, but benefits for function are less clear.”44
After surgery. Research shows that surgical patients who are prescribed opioids are at increased risk for chronic opioid use.45 “New persistent opioid use is more common than previously reported and can be considered one of the most common complications after elective surgery,” notes a 2017 investigation in JAMA Surgery.46
Arthritis. Studies have shown that use of opioids to treat arthritis leads to higher risk of bone
fracture and increased risk of cardiovascular events, hospitalization, and mortality.47 The author of a
recent study on opioid use for pain management among spine osteoarthritis patients pointed to
concerns around the “potential for misuse, dependency and increased adverse events,” including
death. “Growing evidence demonstrates little if any clinically significant benefit of opioids for OA
[osteoarthritis] pain, particularly when compared to other medications,” he said.48"
American Physical Therapy Association. 2018. "Beyond Opioids: How Physical Therapy Can Transform Pain Management to Improve Health".