Physical Therapy vs Opioids

The opioid epidemic has been big news in recent years. No one wants to live in constant pain, but most people also don’t want to face the many risks associated with opioid painkillers. Medications like OxyContin and Vicodin are highly addictive and can lead to depression, overdose and withdrawal symptoms. While they are appropriate in certain situations, they usually are not the best first course of action. For many patients, physical therapy provides a safe, long-lasting alternative to masking pain with opioids. Let’s take a closer look at what research says about safe pain management with physical therapy.

Choosing Physical Therapy Instead of Opioids

Physical Therapy

Physical Therapist stretching the patient

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that healthcare providers reduce their use of opioids for the treatment of chronic and acute pain. Instead, they encourage providers to prescribe safer alternatives like physical therapy. Here are just a few ways that physical therapy aids in pain management:

Manual Therapy

On-going studies indicate the effectiveness of hands-on pain treatment. Through techniques like soft tissue and joint mobilization, manipulation and dry needling, physical therapists are able to restore range of motion and decrease pain in patients suffering from numerous problems.


One study that followed 20,000 people over the course of 11 years discovered that the participants who exercised more frequently experienced less pain. In fact, chronic widespread pain was 28 percent less common in those who exercised at least three times each week.


Physical therapists strive to educate patients to help them understand their pain and set realistic expectations for treatment. People who are educated about the problem are less likely to seek treatment.


Lastly, research has shown that developing a relationship with a healthcare provider and being proactive in recovery can affect patient outcomes. Physical therapists get to know their patients and work with them directly to help them meet their goals. In many cases, this leads to more successful treatment than pain management with painkillers alone.

Physical Therapy in Denver

If you are in pain and would like to give physical therapy a try, contact Denver Physical Medicine. You can reach us at 303-757-7280.