HSR&D Citation Abstract
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Physical therapists should play a greater role in managing patients with opioid use and opioid misuse.
Magel J, Kietrys D, Kruger ES, Fritz JM, Gordon AJ. Physical therapists should play a greater role in managing patients with opioid use and opioid misuse. Substance Abuse. 2021 Sep 15; 42(3):255-260.
The U.S. opioid crisis necessitates that health care providers of all types work collaboratively to manage patients taking prescription opioid medications and manage those who may be misusing prescription opioids. Musculoskeletal conditions are the most common diagnoses associated with an opioid prescription. Physical therapists commonly manage patients with musculoskeletal conditions and chronic pain. Some patients who attend physical therapy for pain management take prescription opioid medications for pain and some of these patients may be misusing prescription opioids. Physical therapists who manage patients with musculoskeletal conditions are well-positioned to help address the opioid crisis. Historically, physical therapists have not been adequately engaged in efforts to manage persons with co-occurring musculoskeletal pain and opioid misuse or OUD. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has emphasized physical therapy over the use of prescription opioids for the management of painful conditions. The APTA, however, does not highlight the important role that physical therapists could play in monitoring opioid use among patients receiving treatment for pain, nor the role that physical therapists should play in screening for opioid misuse. Such screening could facilitate referral of patients suspected misuse to an appropriate provider for formal assessment and treatment. This commentary presents simulated musculoskeletal patient presentations depicting 2 common opioid use states; chronic opioid use and opioid misuse. The cases highlight and interactions that physical therapists could have with these patients and actions that the physical therapist could take when working inter-disciplinarily. Recommendations are provided that aim to increase physical therapists' knowledge and skills related to managing patients taking prescription opioid medications for pain.