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If You’re Taking Opioids for Your Arthritis Pain, This Blog is For You

130: that’s how many people on average die of an opioid overdose every day in the United States. It’s a stunning statistic that sadly impacts nearly every community in our country since opioid abuse and addiction affects people from all walks of life.  

Many people who become addicted to opioids were first prescribed them by a medical doctor as a way to manage an acute or chronic pain condition. The problem is, opioid medications:

  • Can be highly addictive
  • Only hide symptoms of pain—they don’t address the underlying causes, which makes opioids less cost-effective over time
  • Are associated with an increased risk of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and depression

Unfortunately, in addition to an opioid epidemic in this country, researchers believe there is also a chronic pain epidemic, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 5 American adults report chronic pain caused by arthritis and other conditions. If you’re one of them, we encourage you to contact North Park Medical today to schedule an appointment. We can connect you with a compassionate and highly skilled physical therapist who can help you alleviate your arthritis pain along with the other physical and mental symptoms associated with it. 

3 Ways Physical Therapy Can Alleviate Your Pain

Medications, even opioids, may be appropriate in certain cases. But experts believe people with many types of chronic pain, including arthritis, should try physical therapy first. Here are three ways a physical therapist can help you: 

1. Physical Therapy Can Address Pain at it’s Source AS WELL As Alleviate Symptoms

Physical therapy uses a combination of “passive” and “active” techniques to help people reduce their pain and improve their overall health and well-being. Unlike medication, physical therapy services can make you feel better while also correcting the underlying issues contributing to your condition. 

For instance, arthritis joint pain is often caused or exacerbated by weak muscles or abnormal movement patterns that increase pressure in the affected joint. Physical therapy treatments like therapeutic exercises and joint mobilizations can help minimize these issues while also decreasing discomfort, reducing inflammation, and improving joint range of motion. Joint mobilization techniques, including spinal manipulation, can also modulate your nervous system and trigger the release of powerful pain-relieving chemicals in your body for significant relief and whole-body healing. 

Other techniques your physical therapist may offer you for your arthritic joint pain include:

  • Soft tissue mobilization and massage
  • Modalities like electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and diathermy
  • Kinesiotaping 
  • Exercises to improve balance, coordination, and strength
  • Breathing exercises
  • Training to improve posture and ergonomic set up at work or home

2. Physical Therapy Helps You Feel Better So You Can Exercise More

Regular physical activity, including strength training and aerobic exercise, is one of the most effective ways to improve arthritis joint pain. But if you’re always in pain, you may not feel like you’re able to safely workout. This may lead to worsening joint function and even weight gain, which makes arthritis even worse. What to do? This is where physical therapy comes in.

By working with a physical therapist, you can get your pain under better control so you can go do those active things you know are good for your body. A physical therapist can also help you learn how to move more safely, such as by teaching you efficient ways to move or pace yourself so you don’t end up being unsafe or doing so much that you’re laid up in bed for days after your workout. 

Our physical therapists are also able to help you problem-solve and compensate for mobility limitations by fitting you for adaptive equipment such as canes, crutches, orthotics, and braces. These devices can be valuable tools that make you safer and more independent as you set out on your pain-relief journey. 

3. Physical Therapy Helps You Better Understand Pain Itself

Research shows that a person’s beliefs and fears about pain strongly influence how bad their pain feels and how long it lasts. Many things like stress, temperature, movement, and even acute illnesses like the flu or common cold can also make your chronic joint pain feel worse.

Research-backed techniques such as therapeutic neuroscience education (TNE) allow a physical therapist to help you explore your beliefs about pain and understand why pain happens. Simply increasing awareness is proven to help people feel less fearful of pain and be in better control of their symptoms. This is strikingly different than simply taking a pill and hoping it’ll make your pain go away.

The Bottom Line

According to the CDC, prescription opioids are not considered the best choice for many types of non-cancer-related chronic pain, including arthritis. Nonopioid approaches like physical therapy are the preferred first line of treatment.

A great physical therapist can help you live with less pain without having to rely on pricey and potentially harmful medications, and in many cases can help you avoid surgery. 

Is Your Chronic Arthritis Pain Holding You Back?

We are so empathetic for people living with chronic pain—it’s a challenging situation that so many of our patients and even some of our loved ones face, too. If you’d like to finally see if drug-free pain relief is possible for you, contact North Park Medical today to schedule an appointment.


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