Opioids Versus Manual Therapy for Pain Management


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In an age where there is an increasing number of individuals suffering from musculoskeletal health disorders, concerns about how to safely treat these disorders are growing. Particularly, in the field of western medicine, opioids have become the stock standard pain-relieving drug prescribed to individuals suffering from a range of pain conditions including musculoskeletal pains.

Opioids Versus Manual Therapy for Pain Management

However, despite its quick pain-relieving effects, medical professionals have found that opioid drugs are not without their dangers. For example, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction and over-prescription of opioids is on the rise.

With mounting evidence concerning the addictive nature of opioids, many health professionals and patients are now considering other treatments for musculoskeletal concerns, which include manual therapy.

Opioids in the Modern Age

Since their development in the 1770s, opioids have generally been used as pain-killers for musculoskeletal health issues, and certainly have their place in pain management.

However, recent research has revealed that opioids are often over-prescribed, and patients are becoming addicted to their use.

Key Prescription Opioid Facts and Figures

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare:

  • In Australia, between 2016 and 2017, 3.1 million people had 1 or more prescriptions dispensed for opioids
  • In 2016–17, hospitalisations with a principal diagnosis of opioid poisoning were more likely to involve pharmaceutical opioids than other drugs such heroin or opium
    Pharmaceutical and prescription opioids are responsible for more opioid deaths and poisoning hospitalisations than heroin
  • Between 2007 and 2017, there was a 25% rise in the rate of hospitalisations due to opioid poisoning.

While opioids still have their place in pain management, modern times have also seen the rise of alternative health care modalities for a range of pain concerns. The ACI (Agency for Clinical Innovation) Pain Management Network cites alternative therapies as legitimate chronic pain management strategies.

Alternative Therapies on the Rise

Alternative therapy is becoming a popular modality of treatment for musculoskeletal issues and chronic pain. According to a 2018 scientific report, alternative therapy and complementary medicine use in Australia has remained consistently high over the last decade.

Rather than addressing symptoms of health concerns with drugs, alternative therapies support active over passive strategies to treating musculoskeletal pain-related conditions.

Different types of alternative therapies include:

  • Physiotherapy, which combines hands-on therapy with pain self-management
  • Chiropractic care, involving manipulative body-based methods
  • Remedial massage, stretching and acupuncture

In addition to chiropractic, there are many other forms of alternative therapy which act as potential replacements for traditional approaches to musculoskeletal health treatments (particularly opioids). Performing adequate research is essential to understanding which form of care may be the best option for you.


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