Staff Seeks to Educate Public on Dangers of Opioid Use and Benefits of Physical Therapy

April 3, 2019

By: Shannon Courington, Journalist for The South Alabamian Newspaper

The opioid crisis that is plaguing the nation is crippling Alabama. Alabama has the highest rate of opioid prescriptions in the nation. The use of opioids or “pain pills” usually begins with something as simple as a backache or sprained ankle. When a person experiences pain of these types or is recovering from a necessary surgery, opioids are often prescribed for pain control. Unfortunately, opioids are highly addictive. The longer an individual uses an opioid, the more likely they are to become addicted to it. HealthActions clinical director Dr. Johnnie Burnett and physical therapy assistant Jason Jackson seek to educate the public on the dangers of opioids and the benefits of physical therapy.

Musculoskeletal disorders

Musculoskeletal injuries and disorders are the most common reasons that people report a decrease in their quality of life. Musculoskeletal pain is the most common reason people over 50 go to the doctor aside from the common cold. These are the single largest category of on-the-job injuries. U.S. companies $50 billion annually in direct medical costs for musculoskeletal injuries and disorders. A single musculoskeletal injury costs on average about $15,000 – a portion of which will be paid by the injured person. According to Jackson, opioids are “band-aids that block the pain signals, but they do not treat the disorder. They reduce the pain for the moment, but the underlying problem is still there.”

Physical therapy

Physical therapy is an answer to ongoing musculoskeletal issues. The goals of physical therapy are to restore normal movement, increase posture, increase mechanics and decrease the inflammatory process. Jason Jackson says that it is important to think of the body as an organic machine and maintain it as you would your car or any other piece of equipment. “Daily essential movements help to maintain the organic machine and alleviate musculoskeletal disorders. A moving mechanical system cannot be repaired with chemicals. It requires proper movement,” Jackson stated.  Unlike opioids, physical therapy treats the underlying conditions that cause pain.

“Sitting is the new smoking”

This has become a popular slogan in the health care world. People are sitting more and more in their jobs and in their homes. Sitting deactivates the muscles that stabilize the spine. It also increases the risks of chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Dr. Burnett says that third world countries do not have high rates of musculoskeletal problems seen in America. The reason for the lower rates is due to the active physical lifestyle that is required in those countries.

Burnett says the majority of what physical therapists see is from the effects of sitting and refers to this as “a true epidemic.” Physical therapists are concerned the Centers for Disease Control say that the life expectancy for children in this generation has decreased and that children also have a decrease in their quality of life. “We aren’t running and playing anymore. We aren’t using our bodies. The more we sit, the less we are able to stand and walk,” Burnett stated.

Physical therapy can help restore normal movement patterns, provide better stabilization and reestablish good posture. Many of the musculoskeletal problems that Americans have are a result of learning to move incorrectly. Physical therapists and physical therapy assistants teach patients how incorrect movements are connected to pain and how to break bad movement habits.

A process

A part of the appeal of opioids is the fact that they provide quick relief. The downside of this is that the pain returns and to alleviate it, another pill must be taken. Physical therapy is not a quick fix. It is a process that requires multiple appointments and intentional movement. The process is compounded in Alabama where there is no direct access to physical therapy at present. This requires that an individual see a primary care physician and be referred for physical therapy, rather than making an appointment for physical therapy directly. The profession is hopeful that new legislation will soon change this.


HealthActions Physical Therapy partners with local physicians and offers free physical therapy consultations. From the consultation, information is sent to an individual’s doctor detailing why physical therapy is needed. The doctor then will make the necessary referral. To schedule a free consultation, call HealthActions Physical Therapy in:

  • Jackson, Alabama at (251) 246-5761
  • Thomasville, Alabama at (334) 636-1461
  • Monroeville, AL at (251) 575-1933
  • Daphne, Alabama at (251) 410-0620
  • Dothan, Alabama in Flowers Hospital at (334) 758-8288
  • Dothan, Alabama on Ross Clarke Circle at (334) 305-0222
  • Enterprise, Alabama at (334) 828-7591
  • Atmore, Alabama at (251) 491-0200
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