by Dr. Cynthia Vaccarino
The most common reason a person seeks the help of healthcare professionals is for pain.
We all want to enjoy life as comfortably as possible. Today, more than 100 million Americans live with pain. To treat pain, doctors can prescribe opioids, but now we’re seeing the unintended consequences. As you know, opioids are highly addictive, and on a national scale, this epidemic kills 115 Americans – every day.
In Florida, prescription drugs are the root cause of over 60 percent of all narcotics in drug-related deaths. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, over the past 26 years, opioid use disorders in Florida have increased more than 750 percent.
The numbers are staggering. How do we combat this? Movement!
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends physical therapy. It’s a natural way to help alleviate pain and as a result, lessen the need for opioids. Some of the most common areas for pain are in the neck, shoulders, lower back and knees.
By getting early physical therapy treatment, within two weeks of an injury, the need for opioids is reduced by as much as 60 percent. Of all patients who engage in physical therapy for the common areas of pain, 80 percent of them will still be opioid free one year after physical therapy.
Just moving through physical activity helps reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
What is physical therapy? It’s really the evaluation of what we call your movement system. This is more complex than it seems because it means that your physical therapist is assessing your cardiovascular, pulmonary, endocrine and nervous systems, plus your skin, muscles and bones. This means that the diagnosis and the prescribed treatment you receive is truly customized to help you achieve the best possible results.
The bottom line is physical therapists are experts in human movement and rehabilitation.
What can physical therapists do? From infants to seniors, physical therapists (PTs) are trained to help improve your quality of life. With the help of a physical therapist, you could avoid surgery and eliminate pain without opioids.
Additionally, a physical therapist can help restore your mobility and yes, prevent the loss of mobility before it even occurs.
Prevention extends to injuries involving your ligaments, tendons and muscles. For infants and children, a physical therapist can help them develop the motor skills they need, including the improvement of play, eating and sleeping.
For seniors, a physical therapist can help with maintaining health, wellness and independence. One major risk for seniors is falling. By working to improve muscle tone, flexibility, cardiovascular and bone health, the risk of falling is greatly reduced.
Who are physical therapists and where do you find them? Physical therapists have earned clinical doctorate degrees and are an essential member of any healthcare team. They can evaluate and treat people of all ages who may have medical or health conditions that limit movement and function.
PTs are assisted by physical therapist assistants (PTAs), who work under direct supervision of the PT. The PTA earns an associate in science degree which includes both classroom and clinical work.
At Hodges University, we recognize the growing need for experts in physical therapy and have a CAPTE Accredited PTA program.
Our graduates are highly skilled and ready to help make a positive impact in the quality of their patients lives.
So the next time you’re in pain, before you resort to opioids, see a physical therapist and restore pain free movement!
Dr. Cynthia Vaccarino, PT, DPT, is the program chair of the Physical Therapy Assistant program at Hodges University.