By Ed Coghlan
The government’s crackdown on opioids has “boomeranged” on the pain patient.
That’s the assessment of Jerry Henderson, a Physical Therapist who helps run Clinicient, Inc, a Portland, Oregon firm that helps physical therapist manage their practices.
“It doesn’t make any sense to crack down on opioid prescriptions and not have other therapies ready to replace them,” said Henderson, who obviously believes that physical therapy should be among them.
Stanford psychologist Beth Darnall PhD was saying the same thing in a recent poweerful Huffington Post op-ed entitled “Limiting Opioids Alone Is Not a Sustainable Pain Care Plan.”
It’s interesting because both Henderson and Darnall would tell you that opioids are over-prescribed but often are necessary to help responsible pain patients manage their pain. It doesn’t make sense just to say less opioids without an alternative.
For Henderson and his physical therapists, they feel that some of the crisis has been brought on by insurance companies and managed health care companies.
“Many payers resist the idea of physical therapy because of the expense,” he said. “But the idea of helping someone early in the treatment process through physical therapy can help remedy the actual cause of the pain.”
Henderson had an interesting idea.
“If you could put a family practice doctor, a physical therapist and someone from the insurance company in the same room, you could quickly show the value of what integrated treatment can mean for the patient and for the payer.”
Interestingly enough, in most states a patient can directly go to a physical therapist. But if the insurance company or managed care company doesn’t approve it—the patient is forced to pay out of pocket which most people don’t want to do.
“It’s another example of the health care system not being a system at a when it comes to treat pain patients,” he said.
Darnall pushed the same point in her Huffington op-ed:
“The problem is,” she wrote, “we do not have national systems in place to treat chronic pain otherwise. This is the larger Catch-22 that simply must be addressed. It’s time for national governments to put their money where their mouth is and to focus on major pain research initiatives and comprehensive treatment programs that will allow us to treat pain better.”
So while some pain patients worry about being denied access to medication without any substitute they are left to ponder the question that patients, provider and public health officials should be asking.
“How can all healthcare stakeholders work together to ensure the ‘ideal’ treatment path for chronic pain patients?”