Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. -- The use of opioid-based medications to relieve chronic pain continues to grow in this country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but physical therapy can be an effective alternative for some.

The significant risks involved with opioid use include depression, withdrawal symptoms, overuse, and addiction, said Capt. Kelly Avant, a physical therapist at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital.

October is National Physical Therapy Month. This year's campaign focuses on opioid medication risks and when to consider physical therapy as an alternative to managing chronic pain.

"We can help," Avant said.

Those who suffer from low back pain, hip and knee osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia can benefit from physical therapy and avoid serious risks associated with opioid use. Opioids function to mask these forms of chronic pain, but physical therapists can often treat these conditions effectively through movement and exercise, Avant said.

The GLWACH Physical Therapy department offers traditional physical therapy, sports physical therapy, and post-operative rehabilitative services to Soldiers, Family Members, and retirees.
"I've seen tremendous success through physical therapy with patients who have suffered serious sports-related injuries," said Avant.

Opioids may be necessary in some instances, Avant said, but should be combined with physical therapy to regain maximal functional capacity.

Nearly 259 million opioids were prescribed in 2012 alone, according to the CDC, "and that's far too many," Avant said.

Learn more about the benefits of physical therapy by visiting or by calling or visiting the GLWACH Physical Therapy department at 573-596-1707, room 058.

(Editor's note: John Brooks is the marketing and public affairs officer General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital)