Study: Early PT Reduces Risk of Opioid Use

Stanford, Duke researchers add to mounting pile of evidence in favor of physical rehabilitation

Recently, we’ve had the opportunity to report on studies, announcements, and other occasions that featured various professionals asserting that the opioid crisis may be partially addressed by offering physical therapy to people suffering from chronic pain.

The latest venture suggests early intervention may be effective in keeping patients from developing such issues that would lead to opioid usage.

Physical therapy within three months of a musculoskeletal pain diagnosis reduced patients’ risk of long-term opioid use by about 10 percent, according to a study by researchers at Stanford and Duke.

Patients who underwent physical therapy soon after being diagnosed with pain in the shoulder, neck, low back or knee were approximately 7 to 16 percent less likely to use opioids in the subsequent months, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Duke University School of Medicine.

“We asked ourselves, ‘How can we address the pain that people are having, while not increasing their risk of needing opioids?’” said Eric Sun, MD, PhD, assistant professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Stanford. “And what our study found was that if you can get these patients on physical therapy reasonably quickly, that reduces the probability that they’ll be using opioids in the longer term.”
The study analyzed almost 90,000 private health insurance claims over the past nine years. It was published Dec. 14 in JAMA Network Open with Dr. Sun as the lead author and Steven George, PhD, professor of orthopaedic surgery at Duke, is the senior author.

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