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How Sports Medicine is Helping to Fight the Opioid Crisis

The Opioid Crisis presents an immediate and impactful threat towards the athletic community. Opioids are extremely powerful drugs that can be highly addictive. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), death rates from opioid overdoses have skyrocketed in recent years, tripling between 1999 and 2016. In fact, between 2015 and 2016, the number of recorded overdoses rose a shocking 20 percent.

Surprisingly, the most common entry into an opioid-addicted life is a quest for simple pain management that one might seek after an injury or surgery. Using opiates for pain management purposes opens the door to long term and serious addition. As an alternative, recent trends in Sports Medicine have been optimistic in developing a path to drug-free pain management for athletes.

How Did the Opioid Crisis Begin?

In the 1990s, drug manufacturers convinced healthcare professionals and government agencies to domesticate high-risk opioids such as OxyContin for pain management. Rates of usage soared in this new era of quick fixes. While there is no strong evidence to support that drugs are useful in treating chronic pain, recent studies showed that over eight percent of patients using opioids after knee surgery were still using six months later, showing signs of serious addiction. The U.S. has a particular attachment to theses drugs, as we prescribe four times the number of opioids as our European counterparts.

This is where clinical care gets complicated. Modern doctors are struggling to find a way to avoid heavy drug prescribing practices, while also acknowledging and treating their patients’ pain. Being able to tell how susceptible a patient is to addition is immensely difficult, as there are many hidden factors. Rather than indulging in the gamble of prescribing serious drugs to a potentially high risk patient, many of these doctors are recommending a more natural, Sports-Medicine-based route. 

Can Sports Medicine Practices Help?

The new commonality of drug-free practices is slowly chipping away at the devastating overdose rates. Sober treatment techniques such as monitored exercise are effective at boosting patient comfort while avoiding the risks of drugs. More traditional treatments such as ice and elevation can also be immensely relieving. Sports medicine specialists are starting to move away from prescriptions to these types of approaches to better their patient’s potential for a full and safe recovery.

Sports medicine and physical therapy practices might be the new solution to effective pain management for post-op and chronically suffering candidates. It can be immensely productive in the most essential context. Sports medicine works to prevent severe pain in the first place, so that there is less to “manage” with prescriptions. Natural healing methods such as “RICE,” or Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, are wildly effective at optimizing your body’s natural healing abilities to get you back in the game quicker. These essential habits manage pain by allowing your body to most effectively heal itself. Specialists believe that systems like this, aided by professional instruction, will be the future of pain management.

Fighting Addiction and Seeking A Healthier Solution

Addiction is a serious ailment that is just as legitimate as any other injury or disease and should be treated as such. Fighting addiction rates is as worthy of a cause as fighting any other condition, which is why the sports medicine field seeks to forge a path away from persistent heavy prescriptions as a first resort, and instead help you in safer ways. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, seek professional help. Contact the National Hotline for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to start on a path to recovery.

If you’re suffering from pain, whether post operational or injury related, sports medicine or physical therapy is often the healthiest choice. If you need help managing your pain or don’t know where to start, book an appointment with one of the professionals at Woodlands Sports Medicine today. We offer medical guidance, a variety of treatment options, and the support you need to help you on your path to recovery.  

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