Pain conditions can regularly be treated through the use of physical therapy. It is among the safest and most effective methods for managing pain, according to the CDC. Medications only mask the pain sensations, whereas physical therapy uses movement, hands-on care, exercise, and education to treat pain and help patients learn how to manage their pain.
Physical therapy not only helps reduce pain and promotes healing, but includes treatments that focus on prevention of further injury. A trained physical therapist is skilled in conservative treatments and rehabilitation of orthopedic, neurologic, and cardiovascular conditions.
Physical Therapy to Treat Chronic Pain
Many chronic pain conditions can be treated through the use of physical therapy. Conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic headaches, and neuropathic pain can be alleviated by using two different methods of physical therapy: passive and active.
Passive Therapy Techniques
Passive physical therapy techniques include:
- Dry Needling
- Manual Therapies – such as massage, manipulation
Active Therapy Techniques
Active techniques include:
- Range of motion exercises
- Strength-training exercises
- Low-impact conditioning
- Pain relief exercises
Both passive and active physical therapy methods offer a variety of treatments. Exercise can include using a treadmill to walk or job, water aerobics, swimming laps, or other low-impact activities. Treatments are based on the patient’s level of pain and abilities. Physical therapists work with each patient to design a specific treatment plan to understand their particular pain: what causes it, how severe it is, and what other types of treatments have been used to manage it.
How Physical Therapy Helps Manage Pain
The right combination of exercises and therapy can be a long-term way to manage pain. When practiced regularly, exercise and proper therapeutic techniques can postpone – or potentially avoid – the need for surgery or invasive treatments. Physical therapy exercises will help maintain the ability to move and function, as opposed to becoming a slave to chronic pain.
Being active and exercising for 30 minutes a day, a few days a week helps manage chronic pain:
- Strengthening muscles
- Increasing endurance
- Stabilizing joints
- Maximizing flexibility in the joints and muscles
Chronic pain has the tendency to limit daily activities that were once enjoyable. Exercise and physical therapy can help reintroduce things to keep patients doing what they love and remain independent as they get older.
Pain affects the mind, too, and can cause depression. However, exercise has the opposite effect – exercising releases endorphins, which act as your body’s natural opiate and react with pain receptors, reducing a patient’s perception of pain.
Therapy and Patient Education: The Perfect Combination
It’s important to keep in mind that every patient’s pain, body, and habits are different. That means physical therapy and pain relief varies from patient to patient. Physical therapists are trained to identify and monitor their patient’s pain so an effective treatment plan can be created and modified accordingly.
Studies show that positive relationships between a physical therapist and their patient is incredibly important to their recovery and has a significant impact on the patient’s success. The more active a patient is in managing their pain, the better their physical therapist can work with your body and assess how you react to treatments.
When a physical therapist and patient have a positive relationship, the therapist can effectively educate the patient. This includes education about their specific pain and what is needed to treat the pain. Education increases understanding – and patients who are equipped with knowledge about their pain and treatments are typically more active in their treatment process.
Physical therapy is more effective when patient’s understand why and how their exercises and treatment methods are helping their body heal and restore function. Patients will regain their ability to do what they love and improve their quality of life when following their specific treatment plan and exercises.