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Physical Therapy, Wellness, and the Fight Against America’s Opioid Epidemic

Over the last decade and a half, opioid use in America has quadrupled for chronic pain management, this increase has caused an escalation of addiction and overdose. Access Physical Therapy & Wellness has joined a coalition of physical therapists across the country in the #ChoosePT campaign. The #ChoosePT campaign was started by the American Physical Therapy Association to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic in the United States and to encourage the use of physical therapy to combat chronic pain.

Opioid medications work by attaching themselves to specific proteins in the body that act as opioid receptors. When the drugs attach to the opioid receptors, they reduce the perception of pain. This means that opioid pain medications merely mask pain, rather than treating the underlying causes.

Physical therapy has been shown to be effective in combatting chronic pain by addressing the root cause of the problem. This isn’t to say that opioids have no place in medicine, as they can be effective in treating temporary pain (post-surgery) or palliative care, but opioid medications shouldn’t be prescribed for long-time use in otherwise healthy individuals.

The goal of physical therapy is to return patients to full function and promote wellness in patients. Wellness is more than just being free of illness, it’s a process that encourages overall health of mind and body. By encouraging patients to forego opioid medications for safer, more effective means of combatting chronic pain, the goal is to get them on a path to full recovery and higher quality of life.

Additionally, it’s important that physical therapists take the lead in engaging and educating their patients about healthy lifestyle choices, such as fitness and diet.

A physical therapist can help you learn safe and effective exercises. Exercise can dramatically reduce the likeliness of cardiovascular disease mortality. Physical fitness can also lower the risk of several common forms of cancer, most notably colon and breast cancer. Exercise also releases endorphins into the bloodstream, a naturally occurring opioid within the body, that can relieve pain and create feelings of euphoria.

Physical therapists can also give you advice on what kind of food you should be eating.  A diet that is high in fruits and vegetables has an inverse association with cardiovascular disease. A healthy diet can also prevent or reverse the occurrence of obesity, one of the leading causes of health problems as one ages.

Access Physical Therapy & Wellness offers free wellness screenings for those who wish to improve their overall health and wellness. The exam involves an assessment of range of motion, muscle strength, and nerve tension. For more information on Access Physical Therapy & Wellness, or to schedule an appointment for a free wellness screening, please visit