Choose PT | Opioid Resources

Why Should Patient’s Choose Physical Therapy Instead of Opioid Medication?

  • Physical therapists treat pain through movement while opioids only mask the sensation of pain
  • Opioids often cause serious side effects including addiction, depression, overdose, and withdrawal symptoms while physical therapy provides a safe alternative without serious side effects
  • Evidence is mounting for the effectiveness for physical therapy management of many common conditions such as low back pain and osteoarthritis while the effectiveness of opioids in treating these conditions is inconclusive in many cases.
  • Physical therapy has been found to be an effective alternative to surgery for many musculoskeletal conditions including meniscal tears, knee osteoarthritis, and rotator cuff tears.
  • The CDC recommended non-opioid approaches for the management of chronic pain in their 2015 guidelines which state that providers should consider opioid therapy “only if expected benefits for both pain and function are anticipated to outweigh the risks to the patient”.


  • Rate of Drug-Related Overdose Deaths per 100,000 people in Pennsylvania Counties

  • Ranking of the Rate of Drug-Related Overdose Deaths per 100,000 People in Pennsylvania Counties



  • National Statistics

    • 100 million Americans live with Chronic Pain
    • In America, every 25 minutes a baby is born in opioid withdrawal
    • Chronic pain affects nearly 60 % of veterans returning from the Middle East
    • Adolescent male athletes are 4 times more likely to abuse opioids than non-athletes
    • 60% of Adults prescribed Opioids have leftover pills
    • Nearly 1 in 3 on Medicare received a prescription for Opioids in 2015
    • One-third of long term opioid abusers say they’re addicted or physically dependent
    • In 2016, health care providers across the US wrote more than 214 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication, a rate that demonstrated 66.5 prescriptions per 100 people.
    • 75% of heroin users first abuse prescription opioids
    • Every day, more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids
  • Pennsylvania Statistics

    • In 2016, 4642 drug-related overdose deaths were reported in Pennsylvania, this is 13 per day and overall 37 % increase from 2015
    • > 95% of PA counties reported drug-related overdose deaths from fentanyl/FRS and heroin.
    • Fentanyl was identified in 52% of the deaths and heroin in 45% followed by benzodiazepine, cocaine and prescription opioids.
    • Individuals aged 15-24 saw a 380% increase in fentanyl toxicology and conversely the 25-34 age group experienced a 970% increase in heroin toxicology reporting.
    • The percentage increase in drug-related overdose deaths between 2015 and 2016 was larger in rural counties (42%) compared to urban counties (34%)
    • To see the full report clickhere.
  • National Resources/Links

  • APTA Pennsylvania Membership Resources

The risks of opioid use outweigh the rewards: Opioid use can cause depression, overdose, and addiction, plus withdrawal symptoms when stopping use.

Patients want to do more than mask the pain: Physical therapy treats pain through movement while partnering with patients to improve or maintain their mobility and quality of life.

Pain or function problems are related to low back pain, hip or knee osteoarthritis, of fibromyalgia: The CDC cites “high-quality evidence” supporting exercise as part of a physical therapy treatment plan for those familiar conditions.

Opioids are prescribed for pain: Even in situations when opioids are prescribed, the CDC recommends that patients should receive the “lowest effective dosage,” and “should be combined” with non-opioid therapies such as physical therapy.

Pain lasts 90 days: At this point, the pain is considered “chronic,” and the risks for continued opioid use increase. The CDC guidelines note that non-opioid therapies are “preferred for chronic pain."