If Not Opioids, Then What?
Featuring One Call's National Product Leader for Diagnostics Eric Patten
This post is part of an ongoing series on the opioid epidemic and pain management. Get caught up with part one.
In 2016, 116 people died from opioid-related drug overdoses. It’s a crisis that’s costing the United States $500 billion annually. Despite the mounting costs and risk of addiction, abuse and overdose – opioids continue to be prescribed at an alarming rate to injured workers suffering from chronic pain. The ease of writing a prescription often overshadows alternative measures that are just as effective without the looming side effects of opioid usage.
The larger, underlying issue is this: opioids don’t actually address the root cause of pain. Instead, they ease the mood related to pain. As a healthcare solutions company, we’re not satisfied with just managing pain – we want to treat the injury as efficiently and effectively as possible to help injured workers return to health and a great quality of life.
To combat opioid dependency, we’ve established a Pain and Opioid Reduction Task Force to develop real alternatives that work. Member of the taskforce and National Product Leader for Diagnostics Eric Patten is sharing his expertise with us in this month’s feature.
“Pain looks and feels different for each injured worker. In addition, there are socioeconomic factors at play that often extend the life of an injury,” said Patten. “Every injured worker needs to be viewed individually and holistically so the best pain management plan can be prescribed.”
So, what are some of the alternatives our clinical team stands behind?
Education is key when it comes to reducing the opioid prescription rates. Our clinical team is committed to educating professionals to rethink pain and the treatment options for pain. The concept of pain has a negative connotation; we flip the script and teach that managing pain can be safe and there are alternative treatments without long-term complications and risk for addiction. A recently published clinical trial suggests that a mixture of ibuprofen and acetaminophen work similarly, if not equal, to opioid prescriptions.
Acupuncture makes use of acupoints – specific channels that run along the body where energy flows. Acupoints can be stimulated to open blockages and restore the flow of energy, thus stimulating pain relief. Acupuncture is often prescribed as an effective pain management treatment for upper neck or lower back strains
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
It’s common for someone who is addicted to opioids to suffer from negative thinking. CBT is designed to identify the harmful patterns of self-destruction and assist in establishing alternative behaviors. Utilizing activities such as journal writing and regular interactions with a behavioral health professional, CBT fosters the development of healthy thinking.
Massage therapy is commonly used as a method to manipulate soft-tissue and ultimately, alleviate pain. It’s often a great alternative for sprained or pulled muscle injuries with very few risks when performed appropriately by a trained professional.
Medical marijuana is an increasingly popular alternative to opioid prescriptions. Recent studies have even found that states with legalized medical marijuana laws have seen a reduction in opioid overdose-related deaths compared to states that ban it.
Our clinical approach supports the American Physical Therapy Association's #ChoosePT campaign, which advocates fewer opioids and more movement for better health. Physical therapy has been proven effective for numerous conditions, and the CDC cited “high-quality evidence” supporting exercise as part of physical therapist treatment for familiar conditions like low back pain, hip and knee osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia.
As a reputable, trusted healthcare solutions company, we’re committed to doing our part to put an end to the spread of the opioid epidemic. The next feature in our series will take a further look into reducing opioid prescriptions by utilizing physical therapy.
(2016). 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Mortality in the United States. NCHS Data Brief No. 293.
Andrew K. Chang, M. M., Polly E. Bijur, P., David Esses, M., & al, e. (2017). Effect of a Single Dose of Oral Opioid and Nonopioid Analgesics on Acute Extremity Pain in the Emergency Department. New York City: JAMA. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2661581
Ashley C. Bradford, B., W. David Bradford, P., Amanda Abraham, P., & al, e. (2018). Association Between US State Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Prescribing in the Medicare Part D Population. Retrieved from JAMA Internal Medicine: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2676999
CBT Examples. (2018). Retrieved from Cognitive Behavior Therapy: http://www.cbt-examples.com/
CEA Report. (2018, December). Retrieved from The underestimated cost of the opioid crisis: https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/
Lamagna, M. (2018, August 16). More evidence that the opioid epidemic is only getting worse. Retrieved from Market Watch: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-much-the-opioid-epidemic-costs-the-us-2017-10-27
Massage Therapy for Health Purposes. (2018). Retrieved from National Institutes of Health: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/massage/massageintroduction.htm#hed2
OSSTF/FEESO. (2018). OSSTF/FEESO. Retrieved from Musculoskeletal Injuries: https://www.osstf.on.ca/services/health-safety/information-bulletins/musculoskeletal-injuries.aspx