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BUTTE, Mont. — A five-year report from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Montana Board of Pharmacy shows a decline in opioid prescription rates. However, physicians in Butte say physical therapy should still be considered an option when treating chronic pain.
“We talk about that a lot as far as what is the research showing that’s effective for breaking those chronic pain cycles as opposed to the acute pain that opioids were designed to treat,” said Holly Ferguson, director of therapy services at St. James Healthcare in Butte.
She says the first step is breaking the perception of pain.
“We’ve sort have been trained that ‘I want a pill to fix this,’” Ferguson said.
She says a pill can only do so much, since opioids are effective for two to four weeks.
Ferguson says physical therapy can play a role in treating long-term chronic pain.
“There’s also desensitization therapy that we do, where we touch the limb that’s hypersensitive to touch or motion with different things -- sometimes sharp, sometimes dull -- in different places, and then we ask you, the patient, to tell me what you feel,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson’s says the exercises are designed to build up your body’s tolerance to pain.
No matter which option you’re considering -- opioids or physical therapy -- officials say it’s important to talk to your doctor first. That’s because there are a lot of different options for dealing with chronic pain.
“If you have had chronic pain -- and chronic pain is something defined as you’ve had it for three months, and it’s not gotten better, and you’ve been to doctors, and you’ve had tests, and they’re not finding something to fix -- then I think you need to start thinking about what are my other options besides this pill, because we know that pills don’t fix it long-term,” Ferguson said.