Pain is one of the most common reasons people seek health care. Research validates that early access to physical therapy can prevent acute pain from becoming chronic pain. Moreover, the treatment of pain, whether acute or chronic, 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. As of 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an average of 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
Below are resources to help physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students understand the opioid epidemic and evidence-based approaches to pain management.
Research on Prevention of Pain
Research on the Value of Physical Therapy in Managing Acute Pain
Research About the Value of Physical Therapy in Managing Chronic Pain
Clinical Practice Resources
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed 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.) CDC guidelines cite "high-quality evidence" supporting exercise as part of a physical therapy treatment program for low back pain, hip or knee osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia.
Research About the Effectiveness of Physical Therapy for Pain Management
In addition to CDC resources, clinicians may consider referencing the following:
Research About Pain Management (General)
Courses on Pain Management
Courses on Medications and the Opioid Epidemic
PT in Motion Articles
Resources for the Public
APTA has responded to the epidemic in numerous ways, including:
- APTA's national award-winning #ChoosePT campaign raises awareness about the risks of opioids and the benefits of safer treatment alternatives like physical therapy for most chronic pain conditions.
- 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 representatives from Congress, the CDC, and the National Business Group on Health.
Resources from the #ChoosePT campaign toolkit include:
Additional information about APTA's efforts can be found at APTA.org.