Why Use Physical Therapy?
The challenge with treating chronic pain is that pain is very subjective. What hurts intensely for one patient may feel like a small, but ongoing pinch to another patient. There can be many reasons why someone may experience chronic pain, including a past injury, other illnesses, emotional/mental illness conditions, previous surgeries, and others. That’s why when treating patients, we believe it is essential to listen closely to what patients are telling us, ask questions to probe the depth of their pain or discomfort, and get a bigger picture of a patient’s health, all before recommending a treatment.
Physical therapy is often an excellent tool to use in managing chronic pain. Too often, a patient’s knee jerk reaction to pain is to take medicine. Turning to physical therapy instead of medicine can not only can it help ease pain, but it can also help strengthen muscles.
What Does Treatment Look Like?
The goal of physical therapy is to increase flexibility and movement in the area where pain is being experienced. Treatments tend to fall into the following categories:
Stretching: Gentle stretching exercises and instructions on how to complete at home.
Strengthening exercises: In addition to stretching, we often use strengthening exercises to build up the muscles that support the area of the body experiencing pain. Oftentimes, pain is a symptom of having supporting muscles that are too weak. For example, if a patient is experiencing back pain, we may recommend exercises to strengthen the patient’s abdominal muscles in order to provide more support to the back.
Temperature treatments: Using hot and cold packs can help reduce inflammation, providing temporary relief.
Massage: Massaging the inflicted area can also often help reduce pain by gently stretching, stimulating, and relaxing muscles.
TENS and Ultrasound: Transcutaneous electrical nerve incitement, or TENS, uses a machine to send a low-voltage electric currents to the skin over the afflicted area. Ultrasound sends sound waves. Both may offer help by impeding the pain signals that go to your brain.
Of course, all treatments are personalized to the patient’s situation, level of pain, and medical history.