By: Wesley Moore

As in years past, the opioid drug epidemic and resulting impact on workers’ compensation cases was a prominent topic at the seminar. Dr. Carlos Giron of the Pain Institute of Georgia discussed alternatives to opioids. Considering the addictive nature of the drugs, Georgia physicians are exploring alternative treatments that will assist with pain management and patient recovery times.

Currently, popular alternative treatments for pain management include rehabilitative massage, acupuncture, chiropractic care, physical therapy and occupational care, and non-narcotic medications. While some of these options have been used regularly throughout the medical community for many years, others are relatively newer entrants that are becoming more accepted. Rehabilitative massages are a great way to loosen tight muscles, increase blood flow and deliver a fresh supply of nutrients to the damaged area, and also reduce inflammation. Similarly, acupuncture allows for pain relief and other benefits when very fine needles are placed on specific areas of the body to release tension. Those with spinal and joint pain can benefit from chiropractic adjustments. Chiropractors address the mechanical components of the body and can help those seeking to improve their range of motion. However, according to Dr. Giron, one of the most effective, yet often overlooked methods of treatment is occupational therapy. Occupational therapy allows a patient to develop new goals and strategies that are individually tailored to their physical needs and daily activities. For example, an occupational therapist may teach an individual with an arm or shoulder injury how to appropriately lift or carry objects, and develop an exercise plan for the patient to continue for months or years to come. Sometimes, non-narcotic medications, such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills, are effective in assisting with recovery and getting the employee back into the workplace.

Regardless of the treatment that is recommended, it is essential that treating physicians provide detailed reasoning in their prescriptions and treatment plans. Particularly, this is significant to employers and insurers as it helps ensure the treatment is actually necessary for compensable injuries. A detailed prescription or treatment plan outlining the beginning, middle and end of the rehabilitative process also increases patient cooperation and improves the likelihood that the patient will move forward with the treatment. According to Dr. Giron, the patient should learn from their treating physician as a student, exercise on their own, and stop the harmful activities that they do by way of habit. While a physician can certainly help alleviate pain through non-opioid alternatives, an engaging patient is just as valuable in shortening the road to recovery.