Physical Therapy Vs. Pain Medication

In 2014, over 2 million Americans were reported as being addicted to prescription pain medication. On top of that, almost 50,000 people actually die annually from an opioid overdose. In fact, in 2019 drug overdose was a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Each year, the opioid death rate just grows higher. While pain medications can help mask the pain, they do not fix the root of the problem. When taken correctly, there are some advantages to taking opioid pain medication. However, these advantages only benefit temporary pain issues and are not suggested for long term chronic pain.

While pain medications can provide temporary relief, physical therapy is meant to find the source of your pain and ultimately heal the problem. Therapeutic exercises may not only reduce pain, but can also prevent it from returning. Seeking physical therapy may also help you avoid surgery, by reducing or eliminating pain from an injury. Meaning you won’t need drugs to mask the pain of your injury or the pain from surgery itself. Here are just a few physical therapy treatments designed just to reduce pain, according to

  1. Cold Compression Therapy: This modality is useful for immediate pain relief for a number of patient problems: from multiple sclerosis to athletic sprains. The therapeutic cold temporarily numbs the nerve cells that signal the sensation of pain, while the active cold compression helps reduce swelling.
  2. Paraffin Wax Therapy: Paraffin therapy is another great modality for immediate pain relief. Heat increases blood flow and temporarily decreases joint stiffness and pain. This is another versatile modality which can help patients suffering from fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel, arthritis and athletic injuries.
  3. Kinesio Tape: Kinesio tape is a modality that helps in pain relief, swelling reduction and improvement in lymph function. 
  4. Ultrasound/TENS: Used together or separately, ultrasound and TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) can be used for effective treatment of pain. A combination Ultrasound/TENS unit is useful in treating chronic conditions like Fibromyalgia, deep tissue problems like Sciatica, and more superficial injuries like tendonitis.

When we have an injury or occurrence that causes pain, it is tempting to reach for what will help relieve that pain fast. There is no denying that these quick relief remedies work in the short term – but seeking the help of a qualified physical therapist will not only decrease the pain, but give a long-term solution for eliminating pain or avoiding future injury in the future.