Perceptions of non-opioid treatment for pain in a homeless population




Podawiltz, Alan
Fraser, Kristina
Bernal, Joshua
Nguyen, Harvard
Park, Flora
Westberg, Alexa


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Objective: Approximately 50% of the homeless population in the United States report chronic pain, and recent studies show the homeless population has sought over-the-counter medications, alcohol, and drugs, including prescription and illicit opioids to treat this pain. The aim of this study is to investigate the perceptions of the homeless population regarding non-opioid treatments for pain, including osteopathic manipulative treatment, physical therapy, massage therapy, and chiropractic treatment. Design: In-person surveys were conducted among three sessions over an eight-week period at True Worth Place Homeless Shelter. Responses were recorded through multiple choice, binary, and free-text components and transferred to a secure document. Results: Sixty-eight percent of subjects surveyed (n=200) indicated they believe a non-drug pain intervention could better treat their pain. When comparing treatment modalities, 7% of subjects previously received OMT treatment, whereas 59.5%, 39%, and 41% previously received PT, MT, or chiropractic treatment, respectively (n=200). Out of 194 participants, 150 believed that OMT would decrease their need for pain medication, and 44 believed it would not. Subjects reported the following as barriers to receiving care for pain relief: transportation (n=131), cost (n=100), appointment availability (n=29), nothing (n=8), or other (n=16). Conclusion: Our results demonstrate an opportunity to increase OMT exposure to the homeless population. Overall, the sample studied is open to OMT as an alternative treatment for pain. Therefore, OMT could serve as a novel treatment modality for this population.