“An in-depth analysis of 2016 U.S. drug overdose data shows that America’s overdose epidemic is spreading geographically and increasing across demographic groups.”

Pain: An aspect of everyday life that we have all had the pleasure of experiencing at one point or another. It might even be the reason you’re contemplating physical therapy. Our pains can be short lived, like a stubbed toe or a bump on the head; or they can be long lasting like back pain, shoulder pain, or hip pain that simply won’t go away. Pain is a natural phenomenon that tells our system we may be in a bit of danger; that we need to change something to protect our bodies (which is a good thing!). But pain after an injury can also last after healing has occurred and can even be experienced when no real danger is around, like during normal movements or even light touches to the skin. Arguably, our brain isn’t doing us any favors with this type of pain but you can’t fault it; it’s only trying to protect you. Even today there is a lot we don’t know about pain. It is an extremely personal, complex, and interesting phenomenon that some of the top minds in the world can’t fully figure out either, yet there is plenty we DO know about the pain experience.  

As stated above we know it is personal. Pain can be influenced by the injury itself, the emotions that go with it, the stressors we may have in our life, and even the type of jobs we may have.

Everyone experiences pain differently and no injury is the same for any one person.

A broken arm in the same spot, having the same force, caused by the same accident can provide two very different levels of pain for patients who are similar in age, sex, activity level. Take for example if patient A broke his/her arm that is crucial to participating at work. Understandably this may cause stress about finances and retaining their job; heightening the perception of “danger” around them which could lead to increased pain perception from the injury. Meanwhile, patient B broke their arm but is able to complete all their work with minimal changes to their daily routine. Less stress, less worry, less sense of “danger” around them which could reduce the amount of pain they may perceive from a broken arm. This is not always a guarantee yet it is one of a million different possibilities that can occur with any one episode of pain. It also helps illustrate that pain is much more than a “tissue issue” going on, and that tissue damage does automatically equal pain.

There are many ways we try to reduce our pains whether it is through exercise, a specialist, a physical therapist, or even medication. Unfortunately, the medication options for pain, most notably opioid pills, have created an epidemic in recent years. Opioid medications are quick to improve our pain, and can do it well, but have created a myriad of problems in the wake of their highly addictive nature.  In 2015, the CDC reported that over 30,000 American’s alone1 fatally overdosed on prescription opioids, with tens of thousands more suffering from addiction each day. Addictions that have resulted in increased healthcare costs with a number exceeding 550 million dollars each year, or about $14,000 per person if divided equally2. So, what is one way to combat this problem you may ask? The answer is simple, a movement called #ChoosePT.

Currently, physical therapy has proven the most cost-effective option in the fight against pain and opioid use for both the individual and our healthcare system as a whole.

At around $1,000-2,000 per course of treatment (insurance and individual pay included), it is only a third of the cost compared to opioids, and just under a tenth of what surgical options may cost3. Those who sought PT first (before an MRI) were even associated with a $5,000 reduction in spending throughout their healthcare experience.

When it boils down to it, opioids can be helpful in the short term for quick relief. But that’s all they are; a short-term fix to the true underlying problem. It is easy to see that the problems they create far outweigh the potential short term fix you may get from a pill. Physical therapy treats the cause of the problem leaving you pain-free longer without the use of harsh medications.

As the new year approaches you may have some aches and pains, some new and some old, and we urge you to #ChoosePT before addictive medications. Most of all we urge you to #ChooseBackinMotion! At Back in Motion our therapists and friendly staff can help you navigate your pain experience through individualized, hands-on care. We treat a wide variety of orthopedic diagnoses and injuries throughout the whole body.  We take pride in helping our patients understand why they may be having pain; educating them on their injuries, conditions, treatments, and plans every step of the way. If you’re still unsure if physical therapy is right for your pain, contact us for a free consultation!

Branden George

Physical Therapist

Portland, Maine

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Wrist Pain

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