Physio – An Alternative to Opioids

Physiotherapy is a Safe and Effective Alternative to Opioids for Pain Management

The increased use of opioids for pain management has created a national health crisis. In 2015, health care providers wrote one prescription for opioid pain medication for every two Canadians (Globe and Mail). More than 10% of people who receive prescription opioids struggle with addiction (Canadian Opioid Summit). Physiotherapy is a safe and effective alternative to opioids for long-term pain management. Whereas opioids only mask the sensation of pain, physical therapists treat pain through movement, exercise, manual therapy and education.

  • In March 2016, the CDC released guidelines urging non-opioid approaches for the management of chronic pain.
  • In 2017, the National Pain Centre in Canada released draft guidelines on the use of Opioids in Non-Cancer Pain- which state that non-opioid and non-pharmacological solutions should be optimized prior to starting a trial of opioids for pain management.
  • There are some situations in which opioid therapy is appropriate including cancer treatment, palliative care, end-of-life care, and certain acute care situations.
  • Patients have a choice about the kind of treatment they receive. Patients should talk to their health care providers about related risks and safer alternatives and consult before discontinuing medications.

The Canadian Physiotherapy Association and the Saskatchewan Physiotherapy Association have provided the following resources to support health care providers supporting patients experiencing chronic pain.

Value of Physiotherapy for Low Back Pain (LBP)

Four out of five Canadians experience at least one episode of low back pain (LBP) at some point in their life. Physiotherapy for patients with LBP is effective in reducing both acute and chronic pain while significantly limiting the risk of increased disability and chronic conditions. This resource provides information targeted at health care professionals and references supporting the role of Physiotherapy in the management of LBP, the impact on patient experience and population health and the impact of access to physiotherapy for LBP on health care costs. Click here to download the resource.

Fact Sheets:

Physiotherapy – A Safe Alternative to Opioids for Pain Management

This fact sheet provides a brief overview on why Physiotherapy is an effective alternative for pain management. Click here to download the resouce.

How Physiotherapists Manage Pain

This fact sheet describes 4 approaches used by physiotherapists to help patients manage pain. Click here to download the resource.

5 Tips to Avoid Chronic Pain

This is a resource targeted at people wanting to prevent or reduce chronic pain. Click here to download the resource.

9 Things you should know about Pain

This resource is targeted at people experiencing chronic pain to increase their understanding of pain. Click here to download the resource.

The Basics on Low Back Pain

Students from the School of Physiotherapy and SPA created this information sheet to provide basic information on low back pain and how a physiotherapist can help. Click here to view the resource.

The Low Down on your Low Back
This information sheet is targeted at farmers experiencing low back pain. It was created by students from the School of Physiotherapy and SPA. Click here to download the resource.

Patient Resources for managing pain are available on the CPA website.

SPA provides an easy to use search feature for health care providers and patients to find a physiotherapist in the area of choice and can search for specializations.