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Long-Term Opioid Use can be avoided by Prescribing Early Physical Therapy


Long-Term Opioid

There is an increased need to discover Non-pharmacologic methods to combat muscle pain among patients, in the light of increasing opioid epidemic in the US. Groups of scientists from Stanford and Duke working for this cause have recently published a research suggesting that prescription of early physical therapy seems to be linked with succeeding declines in longer-term opioid use and lesser concentration of opioid use for all of the musculoskeletal pain regions inspected.

The Chief Researcher Eric Sun, who is an MD, Ph.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Stanford, said “We asked ourselves, ‘how can we address the pain that people are having, while not increasing their risk of needing opioids?’” He added “What our study found was that if you can get these patients on physical therapy reasonably quickly, that reduces the probability that they’ll be using opioids in the longer term.”

The study was carried out from an analysis of private health insurance records between the year 2007 and 2015. It was recently published in the JAMA Network Open journal on 14th December 2018. Sun is the chief author and Steven George, Ph.D., Professor of orthopedic surgery at Duke is the senior author of the journal. The claims filed by outpatients and emergency room visits were reviewed for the first instances of a diagnosis of neck, knee, shoulder, or low back pain, amongst privately insured and nonelderly adult patients. The final sample consisted of 88,985 patients, which were screened.

The findings, Sun said, “This could be helpful to clinicians in search of pain-management options that carry fewer health risks than opioids.” Previous studies have shown that exercise therapy included as a part of physical therapy was helpful in the reduction of pain and also improved the functions for some musculoskeletal conditions. They have also shown that patients who have been prescribed with opioid pain medications were at a higher risk of misuse and overdose. “This isn’t a world where there are magic bullets,” Sun said. “But many guidelines suggest that physical therapy is an important component of pain management, and there is little downside to trying it.”

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