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How On-Site Physical Therapy Programs Curb Opioid Abuse

How On-Site Physical Therapy Programs Curb Opioid Abuse

Updated June 9, 2021 Originally published November 17, 2015
Julian Alexander


Members of our PhysNet team just returned from the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo. We’re committed to continuing education like this. It helps us stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices in the workers’ compensation field. One of the sessions really caught our attention. It was called “When a Claim Goes Off the Rails.”

The topic was a hot one: injured workers who become addicted to opioid medications. For example:

"After getting injured on the job, a middle-aged warehouse worker fails to adhere to his prescribed physical medicine program and instead develops a penchant for pills, sending his claim spiraling out of control."

Perhaps you have already experienced this problem. If not, it could happen to one of your injured workers in the future.

The Problem

In a recent blog post, we noted that employers are growing more concerned about painkiller addiction among injured workers. Opioids are often prescribed by doctors, for lower back strain and other injuries that cause lingering pain. 

But opioids are highly addictive. Powerful narcotic painkillers can relieve pain symptoms. But they also reduce your worker’s ability to think clearly and work safely. That puts everyone around them at risk. It also puts your company at risk. It drives up claims costs and reducing your ability to function in a predictable manner. Getting hooked on painkillers can ruin your employee's entire life.

Opioid addiction is a potential disaster for everyone.

You can help avoid this disaster. Make sure injured workers with chronic pain understand how dangerous opioids can be. Tell them that sometimes these drugs do not actually relieve pain any better than non-opioid medications. This gives them the information they need to discuss treatment alternatives with their doctor.

On-Site Physical Therapy Helps Prevent Opioid Abuse

As we listened to the conference presentation, we thought about our own work. PhysNet's unique therapy model helps keep claims on the rails:

  • Our physical therapists are more involved in the recovery process. They are also part of the ongoing communication process.
  • Our on-site therapists can see exactly how the person moves when doing their job. So they can teach your injured worker how to perform each task properly in the future. Your employee can manage their chronic pain better. They can also avoid future injuries.
  • Job-specific therapy rebuilds strength and range of motion needed to return to work. This boosts your employee’s confidence in his ability to physically do the job. It also reduces their worry about depending on drugs to get through the day.
  • There are many ways you can modify your employee’s job to help them manage their pain. You can also make changes to their work environment. Our on-site physical therapists can help you choose the best accommodation options for each employee.

Twenty percent of all job-related musculoskeletal injuries become extended disability cases. One key reason is chronic lower back pain. That’s a lot of injured workers at risk for opioid abuse.

This is exactly the type of thing PhysNet can help you prevent. We perform the therapy onsite, and we coordinate the overall care process.  That keeps your worker on track with prescribed treatments. And it keeps you on track about their progress.

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