Physical therapy for pain management

Pain is one of the most common reasons people seek health care, and most reach to opioids for relief.

For many, the risks associated with opioids outweigh the benefits. Potential side effects of opioids include depression, overdose, addiction and withdrawal symptoms when stopping use.

Most alarming is the rate in which opioids contribute to overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 75% of the nearly 92,000 drug overdose deaths in 2020 involved an opioid. In 2016, the CDC released opioid prescription guidelines in response to the opioid epidemic. The guidelines recognize that prescribed opioids are appropriate in certain cases, including cancer treatment, palliative care, end-of-life care and in certain acute care situations (such as after surgery), if properly dosed. For other pain management, the CDC recommends nonopioid approaches including physical therapy.

“Physical therapy is part of the first line in limiting pain and improving function,” said Wade McDowell, director of Therapy Services at Trinity Health. “We treat pain through movement.”

While opioids provide pain relief by disrupting pain signals to the brain, physical therapy addresses the source of the pain, providing long-term relief, increased mobility and an improved lifestyle.

“We work with patients to identify what is causing the difficulty and pain. By stretching the problem joints and tissues, and strengthening the muscles that support normal movement, patients will experience pain relief and increased flexibility and movement,” said McDowell.

The treatment of pain, whether acute or chronic, often requires an integrated, multidisciplinary approach due to the many variables that may contribute to a patient’s perception of pain and response to treatment. McDowell advises patients to work with their primary care provider or specialist to develop the best care plan for their unique situation.

Trinity Health Physical Therapy

With the largest and most experienced team of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in the area, Trinity Health offers a broad range of interventions and specialized experience. Areas of expertise include: lymphedema, pelvic health, low back pain, pediatrics, total joint replacements, surgical recovery, and sports, running and work injuries.

They offer physical therapy services to people of all ages and abilities in hospital and outpatient settings including the NICU, RehabCare (inpatient rehab), Trinity Homes, Home Health, and area schools and early intervention programs.

The care philosophy for McDowell and the Trinity Health Physical Therapy team is simple: Teach patients what they need to do to day-in and day-out to live their best life possible.


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