Both the US and Canada are afflicted by the growing prevalence of patient dependence and abuse of analgesic and narcotics. Healthcare providers are caught between addressing their patients pain concerns and balancing medication overuse. Patient use the medication for analgesia and sedation, but the same benefits are used by abusers to get high or relieve anxiety. In 2013 and 2014 the National Survey on Drug use and Health reported 50.5% of people who used pain killers, received it from a family or friend and not their doctor.
Repeated use of narcotics results in dependence, requiring more of the same medication for the same original effect, medically termed as tolerance. As a result we have seen a dramatic increase in black market sales, estimated at 25 billion. It goes without saying that opioid abuse is a big enough problem that the world has taken notice, governments are cracking down and national media outlets are spreading the word.
In a world of on-demand, immediate relief, and a need to solve your maladies via the magic pill, we fail to see that other options exist. Physiotherapy, Massage, Acupuncture, and Chiropractic services are recognized as useful alternatives to pills. Some may view this as more pain to treat pain. Although counterintuitive in thought, these are modalities that have a role in the realm of pain management. People can use services for back pain, neck pain, arthritic pain, range of motion, muscle and chronic pains, just to name a few.
Physiotherapy is used to alleviate osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, and neuropathic pain. One of the goals of therapist is to make their patients stronger, allowing them to move safely and functionally in ways they haven’t been able to previously.
Physiotherapists implement different types of pain management methods such as massage, manipulation of bones and joints, manual therapy using hands and tools on soft tissue, movement therapy, and exercise. Within each of these categories, therapist implement a variety of treatments.
Physical therapy tackles the physical side of inflammation, stiffness, and soreness with exercise, manipulation, and massage, but it also works to help the body heal itself by encouraging the production of the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals. This two-pronged approach is what helps make physiotherapy so effective as pain treatment.
For individuals unable to leave their home due to pain, functional status, or post-operative dysfunction, home-care has become an exploding industry as alternative care. Technology savvy companies such as Therapia, have recognized people are getting older, less functional, and unable to manage their pain. We solve this problem by bringing the provider to the patient’s home. So that same population that doesn’t want to “pop pills”, and would rather “live” with their pain, don’t have to do either any longer.
Convenience of pain management at home without the use and side effects of opioids, while also increasing your functional ability is a great option for pain control. Patient should know that they have other options rather than the narcotic route. We just need to create better option awareness. Many major cities are equipped for this war on narcotic abuse. For example, Toronto and its surrounding GTA, has the CPSO holding physicians more accountable for their prescriptions, police regulating and cleaning up the streets, media increasing awareness, health ministry’s developing treatment programs, and Nuevo healthcare technology startups offering different forms of pain management.
As North America better prepares for this war on narcotics, they need to put the patients first, and offer alternative forms of care for these individuals.