The Opioid Crisis is a Community Problem, not an Individual Problem. Physical Therapy Can Help.

Physical therapy can play a role in reducing the effects of the opioid crisis in America.  A 2020 article in the journal Physical Therapy suggests that we need to make a complete mind shift in how we look at opioid use and the roots of the crisis (Davenport, DeVoght, Sisneros, & Bezruchka, 2020). To start, by the time a person’s health is affected by opioid use, many other community-level protectants have failed. The American Physical Therapy Association suggests that the solution is in society-level changes that support community involvement and the use of community-level resources to reduce chronic pain conditions.

What does that mean exactly? Earlier intervention options for chronic pain conditions, including alternate work environments that meet the individual’s task tolerance. Community organizations come together to provide physical assistance to someone recovering from a debilitating accident. Outdoor trails and walking paths have benches every 50 yards so that walkers can rest when they fatigue. Physical therapy would be accessible to everyone.

Physical therapists can play a role in all of these layers of community-based change. What if each person who had pain could consult their therapist for an evaluation without having to see the doctor first? And if the therapist had community resources available who could help someone struggling through the early stages of their rehab. What if a therapist consulted on the development of parks and recreation areas to ensure that people across a wider range of physical capabilities could participate? And then what if the therapist had knowledge of health, wellness, nutrition, medical care, and musculoskeletal dysfunction.

I am happy to say that physical therapy can do that and a whole lot more! Physical therapy IS a major player in our road out of this opioid crisis.

Visit our friends at PT&Me to learn more.

Todd E Davenport, Andra C DeVoght, Holly Sisneros, Stephen Bezruchka, Navigating the Intersection Between Persistent Pain and the Opioid Crisis: Population Health Perspectives for Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy, Volume 100, Issue 6, June 2020, Pages 995–1007,