Exercise is Better than Drugs for Chronic Pain
This past week, the Centers for Disease Control released clinical guidelines on the use of opioid medications for chronic pain. Chronic pain was defined as pain lasting greater than 3 months, or pain lasting past the time required for tissue healing after injury. It is important to know that clinical guidelines are derived from a thorough review and analysis of medical research studies.
Among other recommendations, the CDC concludes that, outside of cancer pain or end-of-life care, conservative, non-drug approaches are best for treating chronic pain. For opioids in particular, the risk of taking these medications outweighs the benefist. Research evidence supports conservative care such as exercise, manual therapies, and cognitive/behavioral interventions for treating chronic pain. All of these treatments are offered by physical therapists. While this evidence is most compelling for the treatment of back pain, hip osteoarthritis and knee osteoarthritis, that is primarily because these problems have been studied the most.
Every day, there is more and more evidence supporting the effectiveness of physical therapy for a variety of orthopedic conditions. Importantly, physical therapy should be implemented before drug therapy, with the exception of the use of short-term pain medications (most of the time over-the-counter) in acute pain states.
Marcia Spoto PT, DC, OCS