If you are suffering from arthritis, particularly in a weight-bearing joint like the knee or hip, taking an opioid painkiller for relief can be a powerful temptation for you. All you want is for the pain to subside so that you can get on with your day, right?
Unfortunately, although opioids can temporarily relieve pain, your bones will continue to grind together, making the underlying cause of the condition even worse. Opioids don’t cure the source of your pain, they only mask it. So, rather than turning to opioids for your arthritis, consider the chemical-free alternative to arthritis pain: physical therapy!
Call our office to learn more about how working with a physical therapist can relieve your arthritis or other pain symptoms so that you can stop relying on harmful medications to get through the day.
How do I know if I have arthritis?
Arthritis is a very common condition that many individuals of all ages suffer from. Arthritis symptoms can be managed with the help of physical therapy.
Some of the most common symptoms that arthritis sufferers have to deal with include:
- Inflamed tissues: The pain and inflammation associated with arthritis can cause tissue swelling near the impacted joint. The area surrounding the joint might feel warm to the touch.
- Sensations of “grinding”: Arthritis is a result of lost cartilage, the material in the joints which acts as a cushion and lubricant between bones. The loss of cartilage can make it feel as if the patient’s bones are grinding together when they move.
- Decreased mobility: An arthritic joint can restrict your range of motion, to the point where you are unable to carry out daily tasks like you used to. This can make doing the simplest of things difficult and frustrating.
- Joint stiffness: The joints are especially stiff when you wake up for the day and may feel sensitive or painful when touched.
- Pain: To put it simply, arthritic joints may hurt during or after physical movement.
Why are opioids so harmful?
In a study published by the American Physical Therapy Association, titled “Beyond Opioids: How Physical Therapy Can Transform Pain Management and Improve Health,” the issue of opioid abuse is discussed. It identifies three important events that triggered what the medical community identifies as the “opioid epidemic:”
- Increases in deaths involving prescription opioids starting in 1999
- Increases in deaths involving heroin starting in 2010
- Increases in deaths involving synthetic opioids since 2013
Both opioid prescription rates and deaths from opioid overdoses have quadrupled in the last twenty years. Given these stark statistics, an obvious conclusion can be made: Opioid dependence has gotten out of hand, and the consequences can be literally fatal.
Beyond extreme physical risk, over-reliance on prescription painkillers can have other detrimental effects on your health. Opioid use can lead to depression, which sets up a vicious cycle of self-medicating in order to feel better emotionally as well as physically.
The Centers for Disease Control offers some frightening statistics from opioid overuse in 2011:
- Sales of prescription painkillers to pharmacies and providers had increased 300% since 1999
- In 2010, 12 million people ages 12 and older reported using prescription painkillers “non-medically”
- More than 40 people were dying each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids
You might be thinking, if these medications are harmful, what other options do we have in order to combat chronic pain? There’s an answer: physical therapy.
If you have been struggling with pain or discomfort, contact us today to find out how we can resolve your issues the natural way.
How can physical therapy provide better relief?
If you have been diagnosed with arthritis, you can work with a physical therapist to learn strategies that will help you manage your symptoms, without having to resort to painkillers.
During your first appointment, be prepared to talk about your medical history with your therapist. You will be asked to describe your symptoms and how they impact your daily life. For example, does your arthritis prevent you from taking your dog on long walks? Are you no longer able to play weekend basketball with your friends?
Your therapist will likely have you do a few simple tests which will vary based on which joints are suffering from arthritis. In general, expect to be tested on your range of motion in the impacted joints, as well as your strength and balance. These tests will be used to determine how far the arthritis has advanced, and to assist the physical therapist in crafting the best possible plan of treatment for you.
What techniques will a physical therapist use?
Body mechanics will be another part of your arthritis treatment. Your physical therapist will teach you the proper way to carry out daily activities with minimal impact on your arthritic joints. This helps to prevent the grinding sensation and helps prevent the arthritis condition from worsening.
Manual therapy will likely be a part of the treatment strategy for managing your arthritis. This specialized type of therapeutic massage not only relieves stiffness and pain in arthritic joints but can also help to loosen tissues up and extend your range of motion. All licensed physical therapists are trained in the use of manual therapy for arthritis.
Depending on the location of your arthritis, your therapist might recommend aquatic exercise in a pool for joint relief (as one possible example). The goal will be to increase your strength so that muscle structures can bear your weight better, without putting undue strain on arthritic joints. Exercise and weight management may also be a part of your course of physical therapy.
Kick the pain meds today — call our office
Physical therapy can help you manage the pain of arthritis without turning to powerful opioids or other painkillers. Call our office today to schedule your first appointment with a licensed physical therapist.