How Physical Therapy is Helping to Fight the Opioid Crisis

How Physical Therapy is Helping to Fight the Opioid Crisis

By Brian Rog for ATI Physical Therapy

For decades, long-term chronic pain management was widely believed to be controlled through opioids, such as Hydrocodone, Methadone and Oxycodone; however, new research suggests that opioids may only serve to merely mask or block the perception of pain. With more than 30 percent of Americans suffering from acute or chronic pain, the CDC has seen a major spike in opioid overuse and addiction cases, which should come to no surprise given the disabling effects of chronic pain.

In 2016 alone, opioids contributed to about 17,000 deaths, and recently, authorities are estimating that deaths in the related overdose epidemic are likely to increase by more than 70 percent. Opioid abuse was also just recently classified as an epidemic by the federal government. While many experts question the lack of long-term favorable results among most opioid users, the physical therapy industry is stepping up to be that beacon of hope for those in need. With a proven history in combatting aches, pains and discomfort, physical therapy is becoming a viable, non-medicated solution for those in search of remedying this physical and mental agony.

How can physical therapy fight pain?

Physical therapy is playing a leading role in tackling the opioid epidemic by restoring wellness and mobility in the lives of those suffering from the effects of opioid overuse. Unlike opioids, physical therapy doesn’t mask pain. In its full capacity, physical therapy may contribute to major reductions in pain and significant gains in physical independence through the use of effective, individualized treatments. Clinicians work with patients to develop calculated and adapted programs that progress patients from rest to unrestricted, and in many instances, pain-free activity.

ATI Physical Therapy, in particular, employs research-driven treatment methods derived from its in-house research and data teams, which has shown to improve rehabilitation outcomes. As a result, these methods have effectively helped millions of patients get back to significantly reduced and/or pain-free living.

A recent study by ATI Physical Therapy, My Health First Network, BCBS and Greenville Health System (GHS) found that 70 percent of patients that utilized physical therapy first for spine, shoulder and knee pain were successfully treated without the use of imaging, prescription medicine or additional physician visits. Access to physical therapy is a cost-effective way to address many common aches and pains that affect much of the population. In many cases, a doctor’s referral is not required, though it’s recommended to consult with your insurance carrier to determine if a referral is necessary as well as a primary physician to see if physical therapy is an option for you.

How opioids cause addiction

 Opioid overuse cases lie in the tolerance trajectory, which in the short-term proves to be effective in small doses. Over time, small doses become unsuccessful in providing therapeutic effect, causing users to increase intake (and in some cases, potency), which evolves into a vicious dependency that becomes growingly difficult to vacate. While short-term opioid use may help post-surgery conditions, long-term use can prove to be fatal. It’s estimated that one in every four opioid users fall victim to the dangers of abuse and more than 1,000 people are treated daily in ERs for prescription opioid misuse.

“In my practice, the first concern is to understand what is causing the patient’s pain and then look to treat the cause rather than the symptom,” said Dr. Wajde Dabah, medical director of Pain Therapy Associates. “Physical therapy is an under-utilized option that should be considered as a first line treatment for pain. It offers an opioid-free, long-term solution for approaching the primary cause of the pain. Physical therapy is one of the fundamental pillars I use to address pain and should be part of every comprehensive treatment plan.”

Hear the interview with Dr. Wajde Dabah on SportsMedicineWeekly Episode 17.23

Given the severity of this opioid overuse surge, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging health care providers to reduce the use of opioids in favor of safe, non-medicated alternatives such as physical therapy.

Let’s make a goal and tackle it together

If you are struggling with managing your chronic pain, ATI Physical Therapy can help! To schedule a complimentary screening, make an appointment, or ask your doctor about ATI for your therapy needs, visit or call (855) MY-ATIPT (855-692-8478).

A therapeutic technique to help rid you of strains, sprains and pains

By Kraig Bano, MPT, CHT director of hand therapy at ATI Physical Therapy. Bano is also a course instructor for HawkGrips, an international IASTM company based in Conshohocken. PA

With warm weather comes the excitement of returning to our favorite outdoor activities such as walking, running, biking, playing sports, or gardening. But getting back to pursuits that you love can be tough on your body following a period of inactivity that winter often fosters.

Injuries that stem from quickly increasing your activity level may start as simple aches and pains, but stiffness and weakness could become more involved if not appropriately addressed.

Fortunately, a technique called instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) has proven to be very effective in both enhancing mobility and alleviating injury, enabling pain-free participation in activities as quickly as possible. IASTM is proven to treat joint and ligament sprains, muscle and tendon strains, neck and back injuries, and tendinitis.

Trained clinicians — including physical and occupational therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and athletic trainers — can use IASTM to assist in detecting and treating soft tissue dysfunction. Specially designed tools commonly made from metal, plastic, stone, or even bone are used to identify and target areas of soft tissue dysfunction commonly known as fascial adhesions.

Fascia is a tissue found throughout the body that attaches, supports and separates muscles and organs. With injury, the healing response can cause scar tissue formation along the fascia, referred to as adhesions, which can limit range of motion (ROM), flexibility, and the ability of muscles to contract normally. These limitations lead to deficits that can prohibit participation in daily activities. Research has demonstrated the ability of IASTM to:

  • Reduce pain thresholds
  • Decrease muscle guarding
  • Increase ROM
  • Increase muscle function (as well as inhibit hypertonicity)
  • Improve ligament healing
  • Decrease scarring
  • Decrease tendinitis symptoms

By utilizing a variety of treatment strokes, a trained clinician can decrease muscle and joint tenderness, with results evident during the first treatment session. Ideally, IASTM is coupled with other treatment techniques such as manual stretching and joint mobilization, along with a specific exercise prescription that addresses stretching to maintain flexibility and strengthening to improve stability and function. Typically, a series of treatments may be required to achieve full return to activities. IASTM will get you back out on the road, field, or in the garden faster than traditional methods alone.

Best Stretches for your Golf Game

By: Brian Rog, Eric Buck MBA, ATC and Tyler Nohren, MS, ATC for ATI Physical Therapy

Best Stretches for your Golf Game by ATI Physical Therapy

How often do we find ourselves full-throttling it to the course, quickly slipping on the cleats and running at the pace of an Olympian to the first tee box? While we like to think that the run from the car to the first tee and those sweat-infused efforts at the range days before a round will translate into that once fantasized single digit handicap, the reality of the situation couldn’t be further disconnected from that fantasy.

Unfortunately, many of us overlook the simplest of necessities before squaring up on the first tee box – setting aside time to stretch! By not stretching, our bodies are never given that opportunity to properly adapt and adjust to the physical demands on the course, resulting in a serious lack of longevity, and ultimately distancing ourselves from that below-par round.

Let’s all make a promise to ourselves to weave in at least 30 minutes of stretching prior to that 18-hole adventure. Your body and scorecard are at the helm of your disciplinary skills, so take control of both and incorporate these stretches before and after a round. Take a look at the following short video where the reasons why and benefits of pre- and post-round stretches are discussed and demonstrated.

Golf pre-round stretches

  • Hip swing
  •  Trunk rotation
  •  Forearm strengthening
  •  Hamstrings and back

Following your round of golf, it’s not uncommon for aches and pains to creep up on you, so to combat these adversities, be sure to fit in time for the following stretches. Your body will thank you later!

Golf post-round stretches

  • Lat stretch
  •  Golfer’s elbow prevention

If aches and pains are getting in the way of your golf game, it’s time to take action. Stop by your nearest ATI Physical Therapy clinic for a complimentary injury screening where one of our licensed providers will take a look at your areas of discomfort and provide next-step suggestions in care.


Have you ever thought about seeing a Registered Dietitian?

March is National Nutrition Month

By Cori Cameron for ATI Physical Therapy

The American Dietetic Association lists the top ten reasons why consulting with a Registered Dietitian can benefit you:

  1. You have diabetes, cardiovascular problems or high blood pressure.
  2. You are thinking of having or have had gastric bypass surgery.
  3. You have digestive problems.
  4. You’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
  5. You need guidance and confidence for breastfeeding your baby.
  6. Your teenager has issues with food and eating healthy.
  7. You need to gain or lose weight.
  8. You’re caring for an aging parent.
  9. You want to eat smarter.
  10. You want to improve your performance in sports.

At our Washington state clinics, ATI Physical Therapy offers Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT), a diet counseling service provided by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). Those in the program are taught enhanced nutrition and lifestyle skills specific to their level of activity and eating habits.

The ATI Approach to MNT
One-on-one nutrition education for disease prevention and diet counseling for chronic conditions (provided over a series of visits) are an essential component of a comprehensive plan of care. The goal of Medical Nutrition Therapy provided by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is to improve a participants’ health, well-being and quality of life.

What You Will Experience
At the initial nutrition consult, the RDN will thoroughly review your medical record, identify laboratory trends, identify disease and diet concerns, and assess sedentary lifestyle issues. In subsequent nutrition consultations, the RDN will continue to assist in teaching and helping to resolve nutrition concerns with the focus of better incorporating improved nutrition and lifestyle habits. Our goal is for you to make permanent lifestyle changes by offering creative nutrition ideas and fun lifestyle solutions in ways that apply to real life and are easy to understand.