Ohio is at the center of the "opioid crisis." We all have read the sobering statistics. Portage County neighbors and families are suffering. Considering the harms and incalculable costs of opioid addiction, I’m making the case to choose physical therapy first, instead of opioid drugs, for treatment of chronic pain.

Following injury, surgery or just the accumulated effects of gravity, it is not unusual to feel pain because of altered biomechanical function. Acute pain may linger beyond the typical and expected time frame and become chronic. Often, pain medication is prescribed. But a recent Gallup survey indicated that 78 percent of respondents prefer drug-free pain management over opioids. Despite this preference, in 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioid drugs according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That is the equivalent of one opioid prescription for each American adult! The easy availability of these prescription drugs has been cited as a potential path to misuse, abuse, and addiction. While the "quick fix" of pain medication may be tempting, physical therapy is a safe and cost-effective alternative. In Ohio, a person may access physical therapy directly, with no referral required for most clients.

A faulty movement pattern, postural strain or an unstable segment may be the base problem or may be a barrier to full restoration of normal, pain-free movement. Sometimes, these deficiencies are not overcome with simple exercises or weight training. A trained eye is needed to decode the movement abnormality. Education is necessary to give insight into the multi-factorial mechanisms of pain and overcoming the fear of pain. Instruction in a neuro-muscular or movement-pattern training program may be indicated. Physical Therapists understand the neuroscience of pain, and are trained to discern and define movement aberrations.

I urge anyone experiencing chronic pain to refuse narcotic and/or opioid drugs and collaborate with a Physical Therapy movement training specialist to resolve the underlying problem causing pain. And, stick with it until you feel in control again, able to return to experiencing the fullness of life.

Claudia L Miller, PT

Kent, Ohio