It’s funny how the power of two little words can be totally underestimated: “physical therapy.” It may not seem overly impressive as a form of healthcare. It’s physical, so it requires movement of your body, and it’s therapy, so it’s a deliberate process that requires consistency. But the reality of how critically significant physical therapy can be to living a pain-free life can be staggering, including its inclusion on a short list of viable solutions to the opioid crisis. To honor and promote the benefits of physical therapy, the American Physical Therapy Association is celebrating National Physical Therapy Month throughout the month of October.
Solving chronic pain problems
Physical therapy is more than a craft or a healthcare approach. It’s a “dynamic profession with an established theoretical and scientific basis for therapeutic interventions capable of restoring, maintaining, and promoting optimal physical function” Those in the field may work both in private practice or as part of “multidisciplinary healthcare teams to enhance the health, well-being, and quality of life of their patients, who present with a wide range of conditions including those that commonly cause pain.”
Approximately 1/3 of Americans live with chronic pain and many treat it with prescribed opioids. Many also become dependent on those prescriptions though, and efforts to reduce the number who misuse, abuse or overdose are underway. There’s a growing consensus among pain specialists that a low-tech approach focused on lifestyle changes can be more effective. Physical therapy can provide short-term and long-term relief without the use of medication, specifically opioid pain medication.
Of course, opioids can be used properly with positive results, but opioid abuse is so widespread that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stepped in to try to control this growing epidemic.
Transforming pain management
In honor of National Physical Therapy Month, it’s important to recognize the benefits of physical therapy and its ability to ultimately reduce the needs for opioids to treat chronic pain. Physical therapists can provide relief to those suffering from chronic pain with tests that help to “determine the causes of that pain and to assess its intensity, quality, and temporal and physical characteristics.” This means they can also evaluate pain sufferers for risk factors that can help prevent future pain. This proactive approach considers all sorts of issues that can impact someone’s health like disease history, psychological health and lifestyle habits.
If it works for LeBron James …
For the past 15 years, NBA basketball star LeBron James has been considered an unstoppable force. But the truth is that he has suffered back injuries that had the potential to end his astonishing career.
“James did run into a problem, a serious issue that for the first time truly threatened to derail his career,” ESPN senior writer Brian Windhorst notes. “He had disc issues in his lower back that were zapping his strength and bounce. He didn’t talk about them much, and he tried his best to play through them. But James — video and stats showed — was weakening.”
James sought out a biomechanist who specializes in movement and physical mechanics to help him. For years, James has been working diligently to build his strength the right way, so he can support and protect his spine and back, even in his physically demanding world of professional basketball.