Archived Opinion

Choose physical therapy over painkillers

Choose physical therapy over painkillers

By Shannon Icenhour • Guest Columnist

Fall is almost over, but October was not just for trick-or-treating; it also represented National Physical Therapy Month. This year’s campaign was “Choose Physical Thereapy.” With advancements in the medical field, medications are readily available and often seem to be the easiest option to treat pain. However, the American Physical Therapy Association encourages you to seek physical therapy as a way to heal your pain, not just mask it.

Opioids, often known as pain killers, reduce pain stimuli from reaching the brain. You feel better because the medication is masking the pain that you feel. However, that pain is not eliminated. It is just hidden for the short amount of time that the medication helps your brain block it.

 Furthermore, opioids have many side effects that natural healing through physical therapy does not. Painkillers can cause breathing and heart problems, drowsiness, physical dependence, tolerance, and even accidental overdose and death. These medications are often highly addictive and misused. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasize that high doses of opioids are not good for chronic non-cancer pain, and recommends treatment through physical therapy instead.

 Physical therapy helps treat from the inside out, not the outside in. Unlike opioids, physical therapy is a great way to treat pain at the source. It improves strength, mobility and range of motion so that you are able to get back to doing what you love pain free. A physical therapist can help you get back into your groove so that you can carve pumpkins, take a walk on a beautiful Sunday morning, or bake a warm pecan pie. Physical therapists work as a team involving family members, other medical professionals, and you to find the plan of care that best fits your needs.

This fall, APTA and physical therapists all over the nation encourage you to get out, get active, and “leaf” your pain killers behind so you can enjoy this season and those to come. 

(Shannon Icenhour is a first-year doctorate of physical therapy student at Western Carolina University.)

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