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Physical Therapy vs Opioids – Choosing Safe Pain Management

Posted by Renew Physical Therapy Portland on Thursday, September 20, 2018

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Pain is hard to define, yet everybody knows pain when they feel it. Most of us learned pain as infants without knowing the word itself. Pain is usually the result of tissue damage and it is a part of the body’s defense mechanism. It is supposed to warn us from taking action that would trigger further tissue damage. People experience and describe pain differently—which makes it hard to diagnose.


Treatment for pain comes in multiple forms. Since the turn of the century, Americans have increasingly been prescribed opioids—painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin, and methadone, and combination drugs like Percocet. In some situations, prescription opioids are an appropriate part of medical treatment. However, some risks to opioid use include depression, overdose, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms. In addition, people addicted to prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin.


Currently there is a push by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to urge healthcare providers to reduce the use of opioids in favor of safe alternatives like physical therapy. The American Physical Therapy Association has spearheaded a campaign to help educate the public on alternatives to pain management. #ChoosePT.

At the Move Forward website they have 5 recommendation for choosing physical therapy over opioids. These five reasons are listed below.

  1. When the risk of opioid outweighs the rewards (if the side effects of opioids are worse than the pain itself)
  2. When masking the pain isn’t enough (in some cases physical therapy can provide more permanent solutions)
  3. When pain is isolated to low back pain, hip, knee or fibromyalgia (proper exercise can provide relief for pain in these areas)
  4. When you are prescribed opioids (even with the prescription, you can still benefit from physical therapy)
  5. When your pain lasts longer than 90 days (this is considered chronic pain and should be addressed)


The American Physical Therapy Association cites four ways that physical therapists help patients manage pain (Source:

  1. Exercise: A study that followed 20,000 people over 11 years found those who exercised on a regular basis experienced less pain.
  2. Manual Therapy: A hands on approach with gentle manipulation can help mobilize joint and soft tissue.
  3. Education: Your physical therapist can offer suggestions for habits outside the clinic that will help you towards reduced pain.
  4. Support: A physical therapist has experience encouraging wellness through physical therapy. They can be your coach and your cheerleader.

Renew Physical Therapy provides safe alternatives to pain management. We are committed to treating your pain in a way that ensures safe and effective healthcare.

You can learn more about our Portland clinic on our About Us page. Call us at 503.928.4914 to schedule an appointment.

Renew Your Body, Reclaim Your Life!


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