LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – With the overuse of opioids for the treatment of chronic pain becoming a national public health epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends physical therapy as a way to ease the pain.
In April, Bob Ritger received knee replacement surgery. He’s been bothered by his knee for years. “It was really affecting everything I did,” said Bob.
And he’s not alone. Pain caused by osteoarthritis in the knee is a leading cause of disability among adults.
“It was to the point where I had to do something,” Bob added. It’s been a long and tough process to get here. He’s been doing physical therapy for months and likes it now but it wasn’t always easy.
“I dreaded it. I sat in the parking lot not wanting to walk that distance in because it hurt so much to walk.” Bob uses the exercises as a means to stay away from other methods of coping.
“I’ve had pain pills. I’ve been prescribed hydrocodone. I don’t want to be taking those. I don’t like them.” He does like getting up and moving.
“Movement is the best healer of pain,” said Physical therapist Diane Klos. She said she is seeing more patients with chronic pain and she doesn’t want people to hide from it.
“We’ve resorted back 25, 30 years ago to giving pain medication for an injury early on. People started to fear pain. We started to rate pain 0-10 when people came in 0 means you’re better 10 means you’re not. There are some instances where people have to live with pain and they have to understand that pain is natural thing for your body but ultimately your body was made to heal itself.”
Diane believes that exercise can be as effective as a pill when it comes to pain relief.
No pills for Bob but he does use needles. “I was scared to death when she first said dry needling,” said Bob.
In addition to the workouts, Diane does what’s called dry needling. A technique physical therapists use for the treatment of pain. It uses a dry needle, one without medication or injection, inserted through the skin into specific areas of the muscle. Dry needling is similar to acupuncture. “However Western medicine is very different. We’re looking at it as more of a structural side putting it into a trigger point to release that muscle,” added Diane.
A once skeptical Bob is now embracing the technique. “To be honest I look forward to it because of the relief.”
And now, thanks to these alternative methods of pain relief, Bob is looking forward to a lifetime of being equipped with ways to work through the pain, “it’s just been life changing.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Surgeon General released a statement saying physical therapy is a key player in the fight against opioid misuse.