BILLINGS — When physical therapist Stephanie Weyrauch first heard about the St. Vincent Healthcare Billings Pain Center's upcoming closure in January, she felt that she needed to let patients know about alternative pain-management options.
“A lot of times people who have chronic pain, one of the difficulties that they have navigating the health care system is that they think doctors tell them that they made it all up in their head," Weyrauch said on Tuesday. "Or they don’t feel understood and a lot of times I’ve heard patients tell me, 'Wow, this is the first time somebody’s actually listened to me and understands that my pain is real.'”
Weyrauch offers at-home physical therapyto remove barriers someone may face going to a clinic.
She hopes to contribute to the solution for the thousands of patients who may soon have a harder time obtaining prescription drugs to manage chronic pain.
“We as physical therapists can’t prescribe pain medication, but sometimes we do realize that there’s a need for that," Weyrauch said. "Our hope is to help people decrease their pain enough so that they can eventually get off their medications. But we definitely aren’t anti-medication.”
In Montana, a patient does not need a referral from a primary care provider to go to a physical therapist.
Dr. Bethany Nordahl, founder ofArrow Pelvic Physical Therapy, hopes to become more of a first thought for pain management, rather than a last resort.
“Physical therapy is an option. It shouldn’t be something that is an afterthought,” Nordahl said. “We’re not about sticking Band-Aids on problems.”
Nordahl is hoping for a spike in patients when the pain center closes so she can help more patients.
Bernadette Botz is a patient of Nordahl's and would recommend anyone with pain to see a physical therapist.
She has dealt with chronic back pain for many years, but after working with Nordahl, she is feeling much better.
“I’ve come to look at physical therapy not as a fix me now type of thing but like something I need to be doing in some form for the rest of my life,” Botz said. “It’s restored my hope that I can be whole physically again.”