The ongoing opioid crisis in the United States reflects the unintended consequences of a nationwide effort to help individuals control their pain.
The presence of pain is one of the most common reasons people seek health care. The treatment of pain, particularly chronic pain, often requires an integrated, multidisciplinary approach due to the many variables that may contribute to a patient’s perception of pain and response to treatment.
In response to the epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain (March 2016) that urge clinicians to seek safer alternatives like physical therapy in most cases for long-term pain management. (Cancer treatment, palliative care, end-of-life care, and certain acute care situations are cited as cases in which properly dosed opioid therapy may be appropriate.)
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has responded to the epidemic in numerous ways, including:
- A national public awareness campaign that encourages patients to choose physical therapy (#ChoosePT) over opioids for the management and treatment of most chronic pain.
- A white paper that highlights how physical therapy can transform pain management to improve health.
- An expert panel discussion featuring a patient, health care providers, and representitives from Congress, the CDC, and the National Business Group on Health.
Additional information about APTA's efforts can be found at APTA.org.
The official website for the #ChoosePT campaign includes:
- A downloadable PT/PTA Fact Sheet with 4 things you need to know and an opioid awareness checklist.
- A Patient Pain Profile, which provides patients with a simple pain self-assessment, including a 5-day pain diary, and information they can use to facilitate conversations about their care with their providers.
- A campaign toolkit that offers graphics and other resources you can use to raise awareness.
Clinical Practice Resources
In addition to the CDC guidelines and other CDC resources, clinicians should take advantage of the following:
Courses on Pain Management
Courses on Medications and the Opioid Epidemic