Pain Management Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain: What You Need to Know
Living with chronic pain is never easy. It can be debilitating and frustrating, making you feel exhausted and isolated.
Daily activities like getting out of bed, going to work, or taking care of your children seem like a tall order when you are in constant pain. You may also find it difficult to concentrate and sleep peacefully.
Millions of people suffer from chronic pain, and most of them rely solely on medications to help manage their symptoms. While medications can be effective for some people, they can also be addictive and lead to other health problems and death.
This is why many patients now prefer natural pain management options like physical therapy for more sustainable results. Combining the two is often the best way to accelerate recovery.
You should consider trying pain management physical therapy to get rid of chronic pain for good – it’s the safest long-term option with no side effects.
Physical therapy is a non-pharmacological treatment option that provides long-term relief for different types of chronic pain. These include arthritis, chronic back pain, fibromyalgia, headaches, injuries, and stroke.
Physical therapy is a type of rehabilitation that uses exercises and other techniques to improve movement and function. Physical therapists work with patients to develop an individualized plan of care that will help relieve their pain and lower the chance of recurrence in the future.
There are many benefits of pain management physical therapy, including:
- Reduced pain
- Improved mobility
- Increased strength and endurance
- Greater independence
- Improved quality of life
Unlike medications, which may only mask the symptoms, physical therapy addresses the root cause of the pain. For example, if your back hurts, it may be because of the weakening of your core muscles or a poor posture. These issues can easily be addressed with targeted exercises.
Physical therapists are trained to empower patients using a biopsychosocial approach and educate them on the possible causes and symptoms of chronic pain while eliminating their fear of pain to get them back to doing daily life activities in a pain-free manner.
If you are suffering from chronic pain, talk to your doctor about whether physical therapy and pain management can go hand in hand in your particular condition.
You might need a series of physical therapy sessions for maximum pain relief and long-term results. You need to be consistent to see progress.
Pain Management Physical Therapy: What You Should Expect
Regardless of the cause of your chronic pain, pain management physical therapy can help eliminate immediate discomfort and set you up for a healthy, pain-free life.
Physical therapy for chronic pain management usually starts with an evaluation. During the initial consultation, your physical therapist will ask questions about your medical history, symptoms, and pain level.
They will also perform a physical examination to assess your range of motion, strength, and flexibility. Make sure you wear loose, comfortable clothes to move and stretch freely.
They will discuss your recovery goals based on this information and develop a treatment plan to meet your unique needs.
Your physical therapy sessions will likely include a combination of exercises, stretches, and massages. The goal of these treatments is to reduce your pain level, improve your range of motion, and increase your strength and flexibility.
The physical therapist may teach you how to use heat or cold therapy at home to help manage your pain. They may also show some exercises that you can do at home to accelerate recovery. Most importantly, they will show you healthier ways to perform daily activities to prevent additional pain and discomfort.
It is important to remember that chronic pain management physical therapy takes time and patience. You may not see results immediately, but you should start to notice a difference with regular sessions.
If you have trouble sticking to your treatment plan, talk to your physical therapist. They can help you find ways to stay motivated and on track.
4 Effective Pain Management Physical Therapy Techniques
Physical therapists use a variety of methods to treat the root cause of chronic pain. These methods include:
Manual therapy: This type of therapy uses the hands to manipulate the soft tissues and joints. Manual therapy can help release tension, increase range of motion, and reduce pain.
Exercise: Exercise is an important part of physical therapy. Your physical therapist will help you perform a mix of pain-relief and strengthening exercises to make your muscles stronger and more flexible.
Stretching: Your physical therapist will teach you some gentle stretches to improve the range of motion in the affected area. Before starting, they will ensure your body is warmed up, and during the session, they will monitor your movements to prevent you from stretching too far.
Electrical stimulation: This therapy uses electrical currents to stimulate the muscles and nerves. Electrical stimulation can help reduce pain and inflammation.
Hot or cold therapy: This type of therapy uses heat or cold to relieve pain. Heat therapy can help increase blood flow and reduce stiffness, while cold therapy can help reduce inflammation.
Does Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain Management Hurt?
Pain management physical therapy is a safe treatment option – and anything you do during a session should not hurt.
However, since some parts of your body would already be in severe pain, physical therapy can be challenging. For most patients, the muscles in the targeted area feel sore after stretching or a deep tissue massage.
If you experience the same after a physical therapy session, see it as a sign of progress and trust that your physical therapist has the right treatment plan for you. Often, you have to endure some pain to recover, get stronger, and eventually enjoy reduced pain levels.
Besides, your physical therapist will work with you to find a comfortable range of motion and never push you beyond your limits. If that’s not the case, don’t hesitate to discuss your concerns with your therapist.
At the same time, don’t forget that each patient responds differently to physical therapy. Factors like your body type, pain level, body alignment, and daily activities affect how your respond to the treatment plan.
Exercise should be your main physical therapy tool for chronic pain management. By improving your strength and mobility, particular exercises can help relieve and prevent chronic pain.
Below is an effective combination of cardio, relaxation, stretching, and strengthening exercises for chronic pain management.
Cardiovascular exercises are a great way to get your body moving and improve blood flow. They also help strengthen the muscles and reduce inflammation around the painful area, which can provide pain relief.
This low-impact exercise boosts strength, endurance, and heart health. Ideally, you should walk 30 minutes 4-5 times a week. However, if you find this challenging, you can go once or twice a week before working up to more (and longer) walks.
Swimming is the ideal option for people with mobility issues. It can help keep your body moving without putting too much pressure on your muscles and joints.
There’s no better way to relax your muscles (and mind) than deep breathing and visualization.
Follow the steps below.
- Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath.
- Slowly inhale through your nose, filling your lungs with air.
- Hold your breath for a few seconds.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth.
- Repeat this process for a few minutes, focusing on your breath.
- With closed eyes, imagine yourself in a calm, peaceful place. It could be a beach, a forest, or anywhere that makes you feel relaxed.
- Once in your happy place, focus on your breath and feel the pain leaving your body.
- Stay in this peaceful state for as long as you like before opening your eyes.
Stretching helps relieve pain, tension, and stiffness in the body. Try the low back and glute stretch to facilitate proper movement and improve overall mobility.
Follow the steps below:
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Step forward with your right foot and lower your body into a lunge position.
- Your left leg should be straight behind you, and your right knee should be at a 90-degree angle.
- Place your hands on the ground on either side of your right foot.
- Slowly walk your hands forward until you feel a stretch in your low back and glutes.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.
Building strength as a part of your physical therapy regimen is critical for stabilizing your joints and preventing future injuries.
The “leg lifts on all fours” is an excellent exercise that works the muscles in your abdomen, hips, and back, improving the strength and stability of your core muscles.
Follow the steps below:
- Get down on all fours with your hands and knees shoulder-width apart. Make sure that your spine is in a neutral position and that you are not arching your back.
- Slowly lift one leg behind you until your thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Keep your knee pointing straight ahead and your foot flexed.
- Hold this position for a moment before slowly lowering your leg back to the starting position.
- Repeat with the other leg. Perform 12-15 repetitions per side.
As you become more comfortable with this exercise, you can increase the difficulty by adding weight to your legs or by performing the exercise on an unstable surface, such as a balance ball.
You must consult with an expert before starting a physical therapy exercise routine. The results may vary depending on the origin of your chronic pain.
Some conditions, like fibromyalgia, may cause more pain with exercise. Hence, you should start slow, follow your therapist’s instructions, and monitor your symptoms.
If you are living with chronic pain, you know that every day is a battle. The pain can be so severe that it often keeps you from doing the things you love or even completing basic tasks.
What many people don’t realize is that one of the worst things they can do for chronic pain is to become immobilized. When you are inactive, your muscles weaken, and your pain worsens. This is why pain management physical therapy is such an important part of treating chronic pain.
There are a few different scenarios when it is appropriate to consult with a physical therapist for chronic pain management.
If you have tried to manage your chronic pain on your own for several weeks or months without success, it may be time to seek professional help. Additionally, if your chronic pain interferes with your ability to perform daily tasks or participate in activities that you enjoy, take it as a sign to consult with a physical therapist. Finally, if your chronic pain is accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue, depression, or anxiety, seeking help from a physical therapist is the right thing to do.
A physical therapist can develop a personalized treatment plan for you that will help reduce your pain and improve your quality of life.
But first, talk to your doctor and determine if this is the right treatment option for you. Once you have decided to give physical therapy a try, find a therapist who has experience treating chronic pain. They will be able to create a customized plan that meets your unique needs.
Want to learn more about physical therapy and pain management?
At Specialized Physical Therapy, our team of highly qualified and trained physical therapists is at your disposal to help you achieve sustainable recovery fast!