Taking a pill to ease chronic pain is easy, at least at first. But it comes with side effects – the most well-known of which is probably addiction. One alternative to opioids for chronic pain is physical therapy.
“Side effects of physical therapy are less pain, improved movement, improved function,” said Carrie Abraham, president of the West Virginia Physical Therapy Association. “So they’re all positive side effects versus with the opioids we have those negative side effects of dependency and addiction.” Abraham is one of almost 1,500 active physical therapists in West Virginia. She said although there isn’t exactly a lack of physical therapists in West Virginia, transportation can still be an issue. West Virginia is highly rural after all. But the bigger issue is insurance coverage.
“Now we have insurance companies that are limiting access to physical therapy care,” she said. “They’re limiting the number of visits directly in some cases, but then they also are limiting access by the amount of copay and coinsurance that patients are required to pay. So depending on their financial status they might not be able to afford to attend physical therapy visits multiple days a week.”