Reducing Opioid Use for Patients With Chronic Pain: An Evidence-Based Perspective

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The implementation of recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to move away from opioids and toward nonpharmacological therapies for the treatment of chronic pain could involve a difficult transition period for patients and practitioners. The focus of treatment should shift from eliminating pain completely to minimizing the impact of pain on quality of life. Many patients with chronic pain take opioids either because opioids were previously prescribed as a first-line treatment for chronic pain, on the basis of old standards of care, or because opioids were initially prescribed for acute pain. Patients currently taking opioids will need a tapering period during which they transition their pain management to interdisciplinary care and nonpharmacological treatments. To provide useful treatment options, physical therapists need to have a good understanding of the neuroscientific mechanisms of chronic pain, biopsychosocial components of chronic pain management, issues related to opioid use, and pain management strategies used by other health care professionals. Armed with knowledge and good communication skills, physical therapists can work within an interdisciplinary team to adapt care to each patient's needs and abilities. This perspective article provides guidance for physical therapists to effectively treat patients with chronic pain during the opioid tapering process. A framework has been created to help health care providers structure their reasoning as they collaborate to develop a unique approach for each patient.

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