Consumers Urged To Seek Physical Therapy Before Medication For Pain Relief

Armen Hareyan's picture

Analysis of federal drug prescription data, retail sales of five leading painkillers nearly doubled from 1997 to 2005, reflecting a surge in use by patients nationwide who are living in pain.

In light of this provocative information, patients may wish to consider the benefits of a physical therapist's intervention for pain relief from certain chronic conditions, says the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).


There are many types of pain and inflammation that can be reduced by a physical therapist's intervention. For example, chronic pain in the back, shoulder, or knee, or pain associated with certain degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis, can be reduced with the appropriate combination of medication and exercise. "The physical therapist, in collaboration with the patient and the patient's physician, can help the patient manage his or her health over the long term," explained APTA President R Scott Ward, PT, PhD.

"Clearly consumers need to know that physical therapy is an effective non- pharmacological approach to relieving pain," adds Ward. "Physical therapists diagnose and treat individuals who have medical problems or other health- related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. A person coming to a physical therapist will receive a complete musculoskeletal examination and an individualized treatment program to reduce pain and improve function."

For osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease of the cartilage and bone, physical therapist intervention may include exercises for strength, flexibility, range of motion, and the use of devices designed to rest or support the joint, such as orthotics or splints.

Physical therapists are health care professionals who diagnose and manage individuals of all ages, from newborns to elders, who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. Physical therapists examine each individual and develop a plan of care using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. Physical therapists also work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.