Enhancing Chronic Pain Management with Physical Therapy

Chronic pain affects millions of individuals across the United States, prompting a critical evaluation of the current strategies for its management. A recent study, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), underscores the need for a more comprehensive and balanced approach to chronic pain care.

The study reveals that a significant portion of US adults with chronic pain relies heavily on medication, with one in four individuals managing symptoms through medication alone. While over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers are commonly used, there is an opportunity to shift towards a more diverse and guideline-concordant approach that includes nonpharmacologic therapies, like physical therapy.

Amidst the nonpharmacologic options, physical therapy stands out for chronic pain management. The personalized and evidence-based nature of physical therapy makes it a valuable asset in addressing the multifaceted aspects of chronic pain. From targeted exercises to manual therapies, physical therapy offers a holistic approach that not only alleviates pain but also enhances overall function and quality of life.

The study exposes disparities in access to nonpharmacologic treatments, emphasizing that older adults, those with low incomes, uninsured individuals, and individuals residing in the South are less likely to explore these alternatives. These disparities highlight the importance of expanding access to physical therapy and investing in policies that enable delivery of physical therapy among chronic pain patients.

Unfortunately, after suffering through years of reimbursement cuts, the COVID pandemic, and historically high inflation, physical therapy providers are struggling to maintain operations, hire qualified staff, and ensure access to care for Medicare patients.

And now, our community faces yet another challenge: across-the-board payment cuts to physical, occupational, and speech therapy in the Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) Rule for CY2024.

With proper support from policymakers, physical therapists can lead the charge in promoting a more balanced, personalized, and effective approach to chronic pain care. We need Congress to take action to protect access to physical therapy!

Send an email urging your lawmakers to act now – click here to get started!