HMG Health Matters: Using physical therapy as an alternative to opioids

HMG Health Matters

(WJHL)- The National Institute On Drug Abuse reports Tennessee providers wrote 94.4 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people in 2017. This was the third highest prescribing rate in the country and one and a half times greater than the average U.S. rate.
Another group of medical professionals is trying to lower the number of people who abuse opioids by offering some pain-relieving alternatives.

Alan Meade, DPT, Director of HMG Rehabilitation explains one of the main roles physical therapists have in managing pain.

“Physical therapists are experts in the area of movement and exercise,” he says. “But, if you can get that patient to a point where exercise agrees with them, then it certainly subsides and does away with the pain part.”

Meade says the goal of physical therapists and other therapists is to restore the body safely, without the need for prolonged opioid use.

Physical Therapy is basically restoring people’s function, functionality,” he says. “Whether it be pain-related, or decreased mobility, or some kind of limitation of some kind, it allows physical therapy the profession to move in, and through comprehensive treatment and other methods, we can get that patient back to complete functionality.”

Meade adds often patients are prescribed more opioids than necessary, and wanting to be good patients, they take them. He says it’s okay to ask questions.

“We need to empower our community. We need to empower the patient and educate our patient to say, ‘Hey, you might need three or four, but not all 30 (pills)’,” he says.

Taking a team approach, and using as many resources available will help patients heal with minimal pain-killers.

“Even physicians from the primary care perspective and the specialist/orthopedic side, they’re still going to utilize other disciplines in health care that are going to help them reduce their pain and increase their overall functionality, ‘ Meade says. “The opioid crisis is like a diagnosis of cancer. It’s not a respecter of persons. And we have families in this community that are hurting. Not only individuals with the problem itself, but families hurting, as well. And we need to reach out and educate them as well.”

Alan Meade, is also the president of the Tennessee Physical Therapy Association. He says recently he testified at the state level, and the legislature moved a bill forward that said that physical therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, should be labeled as alternatives to pain medicine. That opens the door for insurance companies to hopefully cover more of those therapies.

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