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Avoid addictive opioids- choose Physical Therapy for safe pain management

Friday, October 18, 2019

Prairie du Chien - October is National Physical Therapy Month, and the Physical Therapy Department at Crossing Rivers Health is joining their physical therapy colleagues nationwide, in putting a spotlight on the opioid abuse epidemic. The destructive power of these drugs, often prescribed to treat pain, has been felt from rural to urban areas and across all social and economic classes.

Since 1999, Americans have increasingly been prescribed opioids—painkillers like hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), Opana, and methodone, and combination drugs like Percocet. In some situations, when dosed appropriately, prescription opioids are a suitable part of medical treatment as a temporary treatment to reduce pain, such as in the recovery from surgery or with a broken bone.

“Opioids do not reduce inflammation or treat infection and should not be used to treat chronic pain,” explains Michael Tume, Pharmacy Director at Crossing Rivers Health. “If not taken as prescribed or taken for an extended period of time, the risk of addiction, overdose, or death increases.”

Opioid risks include depression, overdose, and addiction, plus withdrawal symptoms when stopping use. The Truth Initiative states that opioid dependence can happen after just five days. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that nearly 80 percent of heroin users started with prescription opioids.

“We want to help educate people, and to help raise awareness about the risks of opioids,” states Tom Wilkes, Rehabilitation Services Director at Crossing Rivers Health. “No one wants to live in pain, but no one should put their health at risk in an effort to be pain-free. Opioids come with numerous serious side effects. We urge the public to consider physical therapy as a safe alternative for the treatment of pain.”

Whereas opioids only mask the sensation of pain, physical therapists treat pain through movement. Strengthening and flexibility exercises can help improve movement, reducing the stress and strain on your body and ultimately decreasing pain. The Crossing Rivers Health Physical Therapy team offers many specialty treatment options including dry needling, a technique that uses a solid filament needle to treat muscle trigger points which are creating pain and discomfort.

“When an individual begins physical therapy, we work with them to create a comprehensive plan that will meet their individual goals,” Wilkes explained. “By combining multiple therapies, we are able to help our patients improve strength, balance, endurance, and flexibility, which ultimately makes it easier for them to perform daily tasks.”

Physical therapists assist in the recovery from work-related injuries and can help those who have experienced strokes, back pain, orthopedic surgeries, impaired mobility, and strength and balance deficits.

“Treatment with exercise will provide a long-term pain solution,” added Dr. Amarjit Virdi, Pain Specialist at Crossing Rivers Health. “Determining the stressor is the first step in developing an appropriate pain management plan for chronic pain. The next step is making lifestyle adjustments, which includes physical therapy. Gradually becoming more active will improve flexibility, reduce inflammation, and strengthen the muscles around the joints.”

To receive physical therapy services, individuals should discuss a referral with their primary care provider. To learn more about physical therapy and other rehabilitation services available through Crossing Rivers Health, visit


Crossing Rivers Health Physical Therapy staff urge area residents to know about the risks of opioid use and that physical therapy is a safe, non-opioid alternative to managing pain. From left: Dawn Ehlinger, Rehab Receptionist; Paige Wagner, Rehab Receptionist; Melanie Schneider; Physical Therapist; Tom Wilkes, Rehabilitation Services Director; Bobbie Jo Kramer, Physical Therapist Assistant; Patty Fettkether, Physical Therapist; Angie Kramer, Physical Therapist; Taylor Henkel, Physical Therapy Assistant; and Colleen Martin, Physical Therapist. Not pictured: Paul Johnston, Physical Therapist Assistant, Nancy Key, Physical Therapist; Dan Reger, Physical Therapy Aide; and Janet Wagner, Rehab Receptionist.