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Don't let opioids be your boss

There has been an exponential growth in opioid use among workers in Pennsylvania and other states. The American Society of Addiction Medicine says, due to the number of opioid overdoses, this epidemic is now one of the leading causes of accidental death in the country. If you suffer soft tissue or musculoskeletal injuries, you may find that your body will quickly build up a tolerance to opioids, which makes them highly addictive.

Typical treatment

Opioid use typically starts after an on-the-job musculoskeletal injury. In most cases, an employee will self-medicate for a few days and then see a doctor if pain persists. The doctor prescribes opioid painkillers and rest, followed by restricted duty for some time. However, the medication only blocks the pain, but it does nothing to treat the primary problem. The pain continues, and before too long, the worker depends on the opioids to relieve the pain. The longer the musculoskeletal injuries go untreated, the harder they become to treat.

The alternative

Methods to treat musculoskeletal injuries without opioids exist. The primary causes of these injuries are extended periods of working in awkward body positions, repetitive motions and overexertion. The resulting conditions include weak or tight muscles, stiff joints, and compressed blood vessels and nerves -- all of which can be extremely painful.

As an alternative, physical therapy can be used to treat the injured muscles and tendons rather than habit-forming medication. If you have suffered such an injury and this treatment can commence within a few days, you will be considerably less likely to suffer long-term or permanent disability. Physical therapy includes a range of treatments and techniques that focus on manipulation of the affected joints, deep tissue massaging, injury-specific stretching and strengthening of muscles to re-establish balance around the joints along with normal nervous functions.

Early Prevention

In the workplace, ergonomically incorrect muscle use and stressed joints cause musculoskeletal issues that typically come at significant costs to the company and employees who could face significant medical bills. Workers underwork some muscles and overwork others, causing weakness in some, tightness, and pain on others. An example is alignment issues that develop in the small spinal joints to create various painful conditions in the back and neck.

While early treatment is important, prevention programs in the worksite can be a more efficient way to avoid the need for treatment altogether. Prevention in the worksite includes utilization of methods such as ergonomics and employee training. These could include stretch breaks and job-specific exercises along with job rotation to prevent overuse of certain muscles.

What can you do?

Before you fall into the opioid trap, a practical step might be to consult with an experienced workers' compensation attorney. A Pennsylvania lawyer might recommend an appropriate medical professional to treat your musculoskeletal injuries rather than prescribing opioids to block the pain. Your attorney can then provide skilled guidance and support when you file benefits claims to assist with medical expenses and any lost income.

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