Getting physical therapy early for musculoskeletal pain was associated with a reduction in long-term opioid use in a study published in JAMA Network Open
(December 2018). Opioids are powerful pain medications, but they should be used cautiously due to the potential for addiction. Nondrug methods, such as physical therapy, can be effective for musculoskeletal pain. For the study, researchers analyzed health insurance claims data from 2007 to 2015 on about 89,000 adults with conditions causing shoulder, neck, knee or low back pain. Close to 30 percent of them received at least one physical therapy session within three months of a diagnosis. This was associated with an approximately 10 percent reduction in the number of opioid users three months to one year later. Among those who took opioid drugs, early physical therapy resulted in about a 10percent reduction in the amount of the drug used.