I heard a terrifying statistic on the radio last week: The rate of individuals in British Columbia who are dying from the fentanyl epidemic is greater than that of the AIDS epidemic at its zenith throughout all of Canada.
Ok, that's f****d up. What, as a society, are we doing about this?
Well, I'm an Athletic Therapist; not a doctor, not a drug councilor, not a political expert. There's a lot on this topic that I'm in no way qualified to speak on. It’s someone else’s job to address childhood trauma, poverty, and those other socioeconomic factors that contribute to addiction.
But there is one facet to this epidemic that is relevant to this health and physical rehab field that I reside in, and that factor is education and intervention for pain management.
One of the huge factors that we've found has contributed to this crisis that we're in is that, for so long, mainstream society has relied heavily on opioid prescriptions for pain. It's clear, now, that we need to find alternatives for pain, and fast.
My profession revolves around providing conservative, non-invasive, and long-term management for pain and the mechanics behind injury. Most cases of back pain should be manageable without chronic use of painkillers. Statistically unsuccessful surgeries such as spinal fusions and knee arthroplasties need to be phased out in favour of conservative rehab. Exercise, in general, is even shown to be an amazing tool for conditions that are defined by chronic pain such as fibromyalgia. And we haven’t even gotten into the correlation between exercise and mental health.
In fact, Canada's Physiotherapists, a profession with many close parallels to Athletic Therapy, are creating an entire campaign based around using them as an alternative to surgery and pain!
Athletic Therapists are experts when it comes to movement, and the body has an amazing inherent ability to heal itself and manage pain, provided that we’re allowing it to move and function properly. Don’t get me wrong, opioids as a prescription painkiller do play a vital role in modern medicine, and we shouldn’t be trying to abolish it, but we do need to start replacing it as a management method where it’s shown to be unnecessary. With four people per day in BC dying from overdose, it’s our responsibility, as clients and clinicians alike, to raise awareness to this transition.