Pain Management | How can physical therapy help me manage pain?

Physical Therapy for Pain Management

You may think the last thing you want to do when you're in pain is get moving, but physical therapy can be an essential part of pain management.

By Diana Rodriguez

Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

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Chronic pain may leave you wanting to curl up in bed with a heating pad and a bottle of medication to help ease your aches. Although doing exercise maysoundlike sheer torture, it may actually be one of the best pain management options for your chronic pain.

"Physical therapy can be highly effective for all types of chronic musculoskeletal and neuropathic types of pain," says Tom Watson, PT, DPT, clinical director of Peak Performance Physical Therapy in Bend, Ore.

Physical Therapy for Pain Management

Physical therapy is used to alleviate sources of chronic pain, including:

One of the goals of physical therapy, says Watson, is "to help chronic pain patients become stronger, because they're usually weak from not moving."

As a chronic pain treatment, physical therapy can teach people how to move safely and functionally in ways that they haven't been able to for quite a while, Watson adds.

Physical Therapy: Chronic Pain Treatment Options

Physical therapy involves a number of different types of pain management methods, says Watson, including:

  • Massage
  • Manipulation of joints and bones
  • Manual therapy using hands or tools on soft tissue
  • Cold laser therapy to alleviate inflammation and pain and release endorphins
  • Microcurrent stimulation, which emits alpha waves into the brain and increases serotonin and dopamine to alleviate pain naturally
  • Movement therapy and exercise

Within each of these categories, there's much that a physical therapist has to offer as far as variety of treatments. Exercise may involve walking on a treadmill or swimming in a pool, depending on the person's pain and physical abilities.

A physical therapist works with each patient to understand his or her particular pain — what causes it and what can be done to manage it. This is the kind of attention that a regular doctor doesn't often have the time to give, but a physical therapist can ask questions and talk about pain issues as you are going through your exercise routine.

How Physical Therapy Helps Chronic Pain

Exercising for just 30 minutes a day on at least three or four days a week will help you with chronic pain management by increasing:

  • Strength in the muscles
  • Endurance
  • Stability in the joints
  • Flexibility in the muscles and joints

Keeping a consistent exercise routine will also help control chronic pain. Regular therapeutic exercise will help you maintain the ability to move and function physically, rather than becoming disabled by your chronic pain.

Physical therapy tackles the physical side of the inflammation, stiffness, and soreness with exercise, manipulation, and massage, but it also works to help the body heal itself by encouraging the production of the body's natural pain-relieving chemicals. This two-pronged approach is what helps make physical therapy so effective as a chronic pain treatment.

Pain Management: Finding the Right Combination

The less you move, the more pain you'll experience. Conversely, the more safe, therapeutic activity and exercise you get — and the more you learn how to exercise to accommodate your pain, the less pain you'll feel and the more you'll be able to function on a daily basis.

While physical therapy can be extremely effective against chronic pain, says Watson, it's important to understand that physical therapy is part of a combination approach to resolving chronic pain.

Watson recommends nutritional supplements, heat and cold therapy, and even transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy as good additional pain management options along with physical therapy. He notes that it's important to work not just with a physical therapist, but also with a medical doctor who can prescribe any necessary medications. A clinical psychologist and a pharmacist are also important members of a pain management team, says Watson. Put all these components together to find the most effective chronic pain treatment for you.

Video: Physical Therapy Treatments : How to Stretch for Sciatica Nerve Pain

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Date: 06.12.2018, 15:20 / Views: 33453