August 18, 2017 | Net Health

3 min read

Physical Therapy: A Safe Alternative to Opioids for Pain Management

Net Health proudly supports the APTA Move Forward campaign to encourage patients to choose Physical Therapy over opioids for the management and treatment of pain. We spoke with Physical Therapist Pat Sheehy, MS, PT from Optimal Physical Therapy & Sports Performance in Cranberry, PA about how hands-on pain management supports a healthier population.

“I do believe the general public is a lot more aware that they can choose physical therapy first.” – Pat Sheehy, MS, PT

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Yes, we realized there are some people that are going to need this level of medication, but there are a lot of people that might either not need that medication or be able to use less of that medication with a goal of coming off of it.

My name is Pat Sheehy. I’m a licensed physical therapist of 29 years. I’m an owner with my wife, Leanne, in Optimal Physical Therapy and Sports Performance. And we’ve been here almost 15 years in the Cranberry Township area. I’ve seen people come in with just pages and pages of pain scales and pain numbers, and in our field, we don’t really think that’s most beneficial because that means I’m making them concentrate on their pain every day. I’d rather them not concentrate on it and think about what am I able to do that I was not able to do before?

And I will tell them when you’re starting to feel better, it’s probably going to surprise you because you don’t expect it to. And then all of a sudden the light will go on and say, “As a matter of fact, yeah, I’m not having as intense a pain.” Or it’s not as often. But most of that opioid epidemic stuff that is in the news and causing so much thought provoking conversations is for the chronic pain patients, which are usually the people that have had symptoms for three months or longer.

As physical therapists, we try to offer different services to hopefully make them feel more comfortable, be in less pain, move less apprehensively, and get back to an active lifestyle. And then a lot of times they realize, I really don’t need this much, or I don’t need this at all anymore and I might be able to use a non-prescription type of medication to handle the bad days. And we’ve had quite a bit of success with it. And most of the patients that are on it chronically, have to be surprised that physical therapy will help them. Because they’re not surprised it helps, they’re surprised by the results. Because if they didn’t think they were going to get some results, they probably wouldn’t have come. They were hopeful, but there’s still a lot of skepticism because they’ve just had this pain for so long. We’ve had quite a number of patients with everything from low back pain, to headaches, to neck pain. You can even hear them when they say, “I know I’m always going to have it, I’m just hoping for a little bit of help.” As physical therapists, we try to provide that for them.

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