Physical therapy for chronic pain is a reliable solution to decrease ongoing discomfort many patients face daily. Managing chronic pain will vary from patient to patient. Still, many of those living with chronic pain find physical therapy, such as massage therapy and exercise, to be helpful methods of pain treatment.
In this article, we’ll consider the benefits of physical therapy regarding chronic pain, delving into the best types of physical therapy that can reduce pain. We’ll discuss how crucial physical therapists are when developing effective treatments for pain disorders and why incorporating physical therapy can help improve patients’ quality of life.
Understanding Chronic Pain
Chronic pain has a broad spectrum, which makes it challenging for those not affected by it to understand. Organizations like The American Chronic Pain Association strive to provide patient support, education, and awareness, defining chronic pain as “ongoing or recurrent pain, lasting beyond the usual course of acute illness or injury or more than three to six months, and which adversely affects the individual’s well-being.”
As this definition suggests, chronic pain can be traumatic and surpasses acute pain, often requiring medical treatment. Chronic pain conditions affect an individual’s daily life, with ongoing pain leading to withdrawal from favorite activities, struggles with mental health, and strained relationships.
Causes of Chronic Pain
There are several reasons why someone may suffer from chronic pain, with the following four common types of chronic pain having various causes;
- Injuries, substance use disorder, and deficiencies can cause nerve pain.
- Various diseases, like polymitosis, can cause muscle pain.
- Inflammatory pain results from inflammation stemming from conditions such as arthritis and injuries.
- Tumors and spinal cord compression can cause compressive pain.
Although the above causes are common, chronic pain can be genetic or have no definitive reason.
Benefits of Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain
The benefits of physical therapy for seniors and other age groups regarding chronic pain include increased mobility, pain relief, and improved physical function. Physical therapy helps to retrain how your brain thinks with small exercises that can strengthen muscles and joints, resulting in better functionality that prevents the brain from relating movement with pain.
Aside from physical benefits, physical therapy has many emotional benefits, too, from stress management to improving mobility to a degree that makes it more possible to enjoy life.
Types of Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain
As there are several chronic pain conditions, various physical therapy methods are available to ensure patients receive the most effective treatment to relieve pain. Common types include:
- Manual therapy: A hands-on physical therapy approach in which a physical therapist uses treatment exercises blended with patient education and examination to counteract the loss of function.
- Exercises: From yoga to walking and strength training, patients can complete various exercises to regain strength and improve mobility over time.
- Modalities: A treatment method to reduce pain, with common modalities including heat therapy, ultrasounds, and activities.
Finding the Right Physical Therapist
When looking for the most effective ways to treat chronic pain, finding a physical therapist that suits your needs and can provide you with the best support is essential. The best way to find reliable physical therapists is through a referral from your doctor, as they’ll point you toward receiving the best medical help.
If a referral isn’t possible, you can still access physical therapy. However, you should always check reviews and delve into their experience; after all, you’ll be putting your trust in this service.
Developing a Personalized Treatment Plan
While common treatments used to prevent chronic pain can benefit many patients, a personalized plan tailored to an individual’s needs is the best option, as treatment plans can be made more specific, targeting the exact pain area.
Chronic illnesses and pain widely vary between patients, so it’s no surprise that treatments should be diverse to ensure those who develop chronic pain can find a method that suits their needs and lifestyle.
Integrating Exercise and Stretching Routines
Exercise and stretching are great ways to reduce chronic pain and are commonly included in treatment plans. The primary benefit of having this type of physical activity is elevated physical function, with significant improvements resulting in pain reduction and maintaining progress.
Utilizing Pain-Relief Techniques
Physical therapy includes various pain-relieving techniques, such as electrical stimulation, heat, and cold therapy. These techniques provide relief when pain occurs, with electrical stimulation being effective for muscle spasms and heat therapy being great for muscle tension and chronic low back pain.
Treating pain is another factor that varies from person to person, so trial and error is often necessary to determine which relieving methods are most effective per patient.
Complementary Therapies for Chronic Pain
Chronic pain doesn’t only affect patients physically; several other therapies go hand in hand with physical therapy that can improve overall health. Mindfulness is great for navigating the mental impact of chronic pain, whether the patient has post traumatic stress disorder or simply needs a way to live in the moment and improve their mental health.
Acupuncture and massage therapy can be used for physical treatments, with lasting results regarding reducing pain.
Monitoring Progress and Adjusting Treatment
The goal of physical therapy for chronic pain is to manage the patient’s chronic condition, which is why monitoring progress and adjusting treatment to suit the patient better is fundamental. Over time, the patient’s strength may increase, so exercises can be adjusted accordingly.
On the other hand, if a patient endures further injury or finds their pain increases with exercise, a different approach or treatment will need to be taken.
Lifestyle Changes for Long-Term Pain Management
Chronic pain can last a lifetime, so it’s essential to identify ways to manage it long-term. Exercise should be prioritized in chronic pain treatment plans and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, making the most of both the physical and mental benefits of walking, strength training, and yoga.
Implementing exercise in a chronic patient’s weekly routine ensures muscle strength will continue to develop while simultaneously managing stress and improving sleep.
Empowering Yourself to Manage Chronic Pain
While enlisting the help of a healthcare provider is advised, it’s essential to establish a balance between undergoing treatments and managing chronic pain independently. It isn’t easy to remain positive when symptoms flare up, but implementing self-care routines can help, practicing positive mindfulness techniques that focus on the benefits of symptom management with an active approach.
While many living with chronic pain struggle to find definitive treatments, physical therapy provides patients with many physical and mental benefits.
Living with a chronic condition can feel incredibly isolating, as chronic pain affects many parts of life. Resorting to physical therapy provides a productive solution to social withdrawal, ensuring the patient has something to aspire to that can reduce stress and improve physical well-being.