10:50 am June 13, 2019

Replace Opioids (and Addiction) with Onsite Physical Therapy

Source: Brandon Johnson

Over-prescribing of opioids after surgery is helping fuel the opioid crisis in America. In 2017, enough opioid pills were prescribed for every person in America to have 32 pills, according to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science.

In order to avoid over-prescribed or the over-use of opioids, it is crucial to effectively manage pain. A pain management task force was created in conjunction with the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. The task force created new guidance for pain management and found that pain management should be balanced, individualized, multidisciplinary and multi-modal. Pain management should treat the entire person, rather than just the disease state. (Pain Management Task Force Releases Best Practices for Fighting Chronic Pain)

Onsite PTs Proactively Manage Pain

A more individualized approach to pain fits perfectly with having a physical therapist (PT) onsite. When PTs get to know employees, it can be a tremendous asset in preventing injuries, treating issues and keeping an eye out for general health. While not experts in opioid addiction, onsite physical therapists create a healthy wellness experience that proactively manages pain and avoids improper use of medication. Benefits include:

  • Fewer claims. Physical therapists can address symptoms with early intervention treatment to help reduce total claim costs and number of claims.
  • Less employee time away from work. On-site therapies reduce the average employee’s time away from work. When therapists are on site, it eliminates the need for an employee to drive to and from an off-site facility for treatment.
  • Being proactive matters. Your employees may be in pain but just haven’t reported it… yet! Managing that pain and keeping people at work through proactive on-site training, coaching and education can help you get ahead of injuries.

Medical costs and lost productivity due to chronic pain cost billions of dollars each year, and it’s no secret many of those in pain, roughly one third of the U.S. population, turn to and become addicted to opioid pain killers. Employers have a vested interest in fighting this epidemic and providing viable solutions for opioid use in the workplace. An onsite physical therapist is one cost-effective option to help curb this epidemic.

The Opioid and Return to Work Connection

An onsite physical therapist not only helps reduce claims and increase productivity, a therapist can also provide alternative medications for controlling pain and reducing reliance on opioids. Non-opioid medications before, during and after surgery can break the cycle of “staying ahead of pain‘’ and refilling opioid prescriptions “just in case.” By finding alternatives, opioids can be relegated to a last resort option for pain.

Opioid usage can delay return to work and has been proven to actually be ineffective in managing long term or chronic pain. There are alternatives that employers can implement to help employees break reliance on opioids, manage pain and return to work faster.

For example, early return to work policies, which allow employees to return to work at less than full duty, can make a significant difference in reducing costs due to loss time. It also increases the likelihood that an employee will return to work at all.

In addition, pain relieving options available onsite for all employees can go a long way to help reduce chronic pain. These options can be provided at very little expense and fall into the category of first-aid treatment under OSHA guidelines. Alternatives can be as simple as topical pain relief gels and ointments available onsite, strength training/body conditioning classes, access to ice and heat packs, educational classes on topics such as body mechanics and ergonomics, micro breaks during the work day and providing non-rigid braces and neoprene sleeves to employees who are responsible for material handling or are in physically demanding positions.

With the help of onsite PTs, employers can impact the opioid epidemic, improve return to work results and lower costs. For more information, contact WorkWell today.

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