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New study proves early physical therapy reduces opioid use

Dr. David Bertone of db Orthopedic Physical Therapy in Lincroft and Manalapan

By David Bertone, PT, DPT, OCS

With the ever-expanding epidemic of opioid pain medication addiction, researchers continue to analyze data to demonstrate effective alternatives in managing chronic and acute musculoskeletal pain. The incidence of musculoskeletal pain in the United States affects nearly 50 percent of adults and results in an annual cost of $874 billion, according to data published in the U.S. Bone and Joint Initiative in 2014. A recently published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at data from insurance claims between 2007 and 2015 to investigate the benefits of early physical therapy vs. the use of opioid pain medication.

The results of the study demonstrated that receiving physical therapy within 30 days of the onset of acute musculoskeletal pain for low back, shoulder and knee pain was associated with a 5-10 percent reduction in the use of opioid medication. This finding can go a long way in reducing the incident rate of opioid prescriptions and the possibility of becoming addicted to the medication. Alternatives to medications are numerous when dealing with acute musculoskeletal pain but this is the first study that examined data over an extended period of time and a large number of insurance claims. This further supports the concept that physical therapy is an evidenced based profession that utilizes a wide range of non-addictive treatments that offer pain relief and improve performance of functional activities.

We encourage you to discuss this study as well as other evidence-based studies when considering treatment options with your physician. While it may be easier to take a pill for pain, the risks are high for addiction and the benefits can be matched and even improved with non-pharmalogical treatment approaches including early physical therapy. Reminder that in New Jersey, a referral or prescription is not required to see a physical therapist and you can get immediate care for all your musculoskeletal pain syndromes that may develop. Try physical therapy first is an effective alternative.

Dr. Bertone is a doctoral trained physical therapist and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. He is president of db Orthopedic Physical Therapy with locations in Lincroft and Manalapan. Dr. Bertone can be reached at 732-747-1262 or dbertone@dborthopt.com.

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