In an age where drug abuse and overdose has become an increasing threat to our society, the time to take the edge off of drug dependency (prescription and non-perscription) is now. As clinicians, it’s our duty to support these efforts and recommend alternatives to patients suffering from chronic pain looking for a better long-term quality of life. To kickstart this effort, the APTA added its support to the CDC’s approach to non-drug methods of chronic pain relief.



Both organziations have agreed that non-pharmacologic therapy and non-opioid pharmacologic therapy are preferred for chronic pain.

“Based on contextual evidence, many nonpharmacologic therapies, including physical therapy, weight loss for knee osteoarthritis, complementary and alternative therapies (e.g., manipulation, massage, and acupuncture), psychological therapies such as CBT, and certain interventional procedures can ameliorate chronic pain,” the draft states. “In particular, there is high-quality evidence that exercise therapy (a prominent modality in physical therapy) for hip … or knee … osteoarthritis reduces pain and improves function immediately after treatment and that the improvements are sustained for at least 2–6 months.”

APTA’s comments also note that referral to exercise-based interventions “is essential prior to the initiation of opioid-based therapy,” and that exercise interventions “have the potential to improve health outcomes, reduce costs, and decrease the risks associated with opioid prescriptions.”

From our own research at Performance Health, we’ve found that topical analgesics such as Biofreeze and physical therapy have helped reduce chronic pain:

“Topical menthol application acutely reduces pain intensity among slaughterhouse workers with chronic pain and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome compared with placebo. Thus, topical menthol should be considered as an effective non-systemic alternative to regular analgesics in the workplace management of chronic, localized musculoskeletal, and neuropathic pain.”

Sundstrup E, et al. 2014. Acute Effect of Topical Menthol on Chronic Pain in Slaughterhouse Workers with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Triple-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial Rehabilitation Research and Practice 2014(310913):1-6 

“Our study confirms the first hypothesis that SFT reduces pain intensity in adults with chronic non-specific pain in the neck/shoulder region.. In conclusion SFT reduces pain intensity and increases shoulder elevation strength in adults with chronic nonspecific pain in the neck/shoulder region. The magnitude of improvement in pain intensity was clinically relevant.”

Andersen CH et al. 2014. Effect of scapular function training on chronic pain in the neck/shoulder region: a randomized controlled trial. J Occup Rehabil 24(2):316-24

“… the longitudinal changes were beneficial in terms of longer and more frequent periods of complete muscular relaxation and reduced pain.”

Lidegaard M et al. 2013. Effect of brief daily resistance training on occupational neck/shoulder muscle activity in office workers with chronic pain: randomized controlled trial. Biomed Res Int. 2013:262386. doi: 10.1155/2013/262386. Epub 2013 Dec 31.


We encourage you read the full document issued by the CDC to learn more about their recommendations on chronic pain relief and indulge yourself in the research supporting alternative methods. Make it one of your goals in 2016 to make a difference in the fight against addition.

Performance Health is a proud Strategic Business Partner of the APTA.

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