Let's Get Physical: May 2018 Issue
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Saving Lives and Money: Why Therapy is the Best Treatment for Pain
Amid the rampant opioid crisis, researchers are discovering just how effective therapeutic services are as an alternative to prescription drugs.
A recent study published in the Health Services Research journal illuminated the value of therapy in making quality care more accessible and affordable. Analyzing the health insurance claims of over 150,000 patients, researchers found that patients who saw a PT before any other treatment were 89% less likely to need an opioid prescription.
Not only that, these patients also experienced drastically lower out-of-pocket costs—about $500 less on average—attributed to lower likelihoods for needing advanced imaging services or ER visits.
This study not only highlights physical therapy’s success but also validates the need to remove Medicare caps for patients who need affordable care.
New Technology for At-Home Pain Management
Researchers have developed a new technology that monitors and records various factors related to pain and stress management. Because stress exacerbates pain and vice versa, it’s important to evaluate both with this tool.
The device is two-fold: One part of it is like a wristwatch that measures heart rate, body temperature, motion and other physiological variables and responses. The second part consists of room sensors that record environmental factors in the home, including temperature changes, lighting, noise and visitor activity that can affect the patient.
As John Lach, the lead developer for the tech, said, “The idea is that a better understanding of the factors and patterns that can affect pain intensity and frequency will help us identify effective and customized pain-management strategies by the caregiver for the patient. This could reduce the stress of both the caregiver and the patient."
With this new technology, we can have a more comprehensive understanding of how to help patients and their caregivers with the challenges of at-home treatment.
Occupational Therapy and Huntington’s Disease
Huntington’s disease (HD) affects an estimated 30,000 people, with another 150,000 at risk of developing the condition later in life.
Occupational therapy is crucial for patients at any stage of HD. In the early stages, therapists offer services such as: advising patients on when they should talk to their employer about their condition, assessing whether or not it’s safe for them to drive or helping them maintain good posture while eating to prevent choking. As the disease progresses, OTs focus on injury prevention, recommending safe-proofing techniques for the patient’s home, as well as splinting limbs to mitigate contracture symptoms.
If you’re an OT who has worked with this patient demographic, I would love to hear about your experiences. What strategies did you use to provide optimal care? How do you help patients through the emotional hardships of the disease. Feel free to email me with your stories.