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Study finds choosing physical therapy over pain medication can lead to less opioid usage

Study finds choosing physical therapy over pain medication can lead to less opioid usage

A study by the Health Services Research journal is revealing a simple way to prevent mass opioid usage.

It suggests that if people who suffer from things like lower back pain, choose to do physical therapy, rather than initially taking painkillers, there's a nearly 90 percent probability they won't eventually need any of that type of medication.

"Pain medication is really just something that masks the pain," Caitlin Mallinger, a physical therapist with UAMS' Outpatient Orthopedic Clinic on Colonel Glenn, said.

She said pain masking is just a temporary fix, whereas working through initial pain through P.T. produces better results.

"Physical therapy will take a little bit of time and work but in the end your outcomes are going to be so much better," Mallinger said.

"Because pain is multifactorial you can address pain in a multifactorial way and that's where P.T. can be really helpful," Dan Houk, a physical therapist with Functional Health and Fitness, said.

Because pain is so complex, according to Houk, a 'one size fits all' solution, like painkillers, isn't always the right route.

"We know that if someone comes in with shoulder pain, there's a lot of things that I can look at as a physical therapist that can maybe can be causing their pain," Houk said.

"We'd love to help people that way instead of with alt. Pain medications so we don't keep seeing this crisis get worse," Mallinger said.

Houk says using painkillers, while may have a short-term solution, could have long term detriments to those who pick that over physical therapy.

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