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Guest Post: Physical Therapists Offer a Comprehensive Strategy to Combat the Opioid Crisis

Posted By Kara Gainer, JD and Kate Gilliard, JD, American Physical Therapy Association, Friday, July 13, 2018

With the on-going public health crisis resulting from misuse and addiction to prescription opioids, more and more groups are seeking to identify and pursue solutions that address the crisis, including increasing patient and physician knowledge about different strategies to manage pain. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), a participant of the Academy of Integrative Pain Management’s Integrative Pain Care Policy Congress, continues to advocate for increased access to safe and effective nonpharmacological approaches to pain management.

To further these efforts, APTA’s website contains a comprehensive advocacy strategy for promoting safe pain management as well as a number of tools and resources for physical therapists and other health care professionals to use to advance person-centered care with multidisciplinary approaches that include physical therapy and other safe nonpharmacological treatment options. Highlights include a newly released white paper reviewing how opioid-centric solutions to dealing with pain have led to widespread misuse and addition. The paper highlights the valuable role of physical therapy in improving patient outcomes and altering the trajectory of the existing public health crisis. APTA’s position paper for federal advocacy provides a 3-point strategy to combat the crisis:

  1. Integrated Team Approach
    Public and private health plans should include benefit design, reimbursement models, and integrated team approaches that support early access to nonpharmacological interventions for the primary care treatment of pain.
  2. Early Access to Conservative Care
    Public and private health plans should reduce or eliminate copays and other policy barriers to care to increase access to person-centered nonpharmacological pain treatments and interventions.
  3. Education for Primary Care Providers and the General Public
    Primary care providers should have access to information on the value of nonpharmacological, person-centered interventions and how to appropriately assess, treat, and inform patients with pain.

In addition to its policy objectives, APTA’s #ChoosePT campaign educates the public about their options to manage pain. The campaign’s goal is to raise awareness about the benefits of treatment options that follow guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These options include alternatives like physical therapy.

APTA’s work complements the Integrative Pain Care Policy Congress in seeking solutions based on comprehensive integrative pain management and individualized care for people with pain. To learn more about APTA and its advocacy efforts to increase access to and awareness of nonpharmacological pain-management treatments, including physical therapy, visit the association’s website Advocating for Safe Approaches to Pain Management.

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