Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain
When most people hear the term “physical therapy” they probably think of a patient recovering from an accident or operation. While physical therapy is definitely used to help accident victims and people recovering from injuries or surgeries, there’s another class of individuals that can benefit from physical therapy: People who suffer from chronic pain. That’s right! Stimulating the muscles with targeted exercises and therapeutic methods can improve pain.
Why it’s Effective
Think about your natural reaction when you are in pain: You avoid physical activity that will tax the part of your body that’s bothering you. That approach is fine when you’re experiencing temporary pain – a sprained ankle, a twisted knee, a sore back after a taxing day working in the yard, etc. In those cases, your body likely will heal and pain will dissipate, and you can resume your normal activities within a reasonable period of time. Chronic pain, on the other hand, doesn’t go away. Avoiding physical activity causes muscles to weaken. Inactivity may relieve pain in the short term, but actually makes chronic pain worse. Physical therapy guided by a trained professional strengthens muscles, improves endurance, stabilizes the joints, and increases flexibility. Physical therapy can help chronic pain sufferers gain independence and mobility so they don’t become incapacitated. It can greatly enhance quality of life.
Therapeutic Strategies for Combatting Chronic Pain
The causes of chronic pain vary. It may be attributed to a disease like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, or multiple sclerosis, an old injury that did not heal properly, or a congenital issue such as curvature of the spine. Just as the cause of your pain may vary, so will your individual physical therapy regimen. If you visit a physical therapist to seek relief from chronic pain, he or she will probably use a combination of active and passive therapies to help you become stronger and experience a degree of relief. Therapy regimens vary from patient to patient, but may include one or more of the following treatments:
- Strengthening, stabilizing, and range of motion exercises
- Deep-tissue massage to alleviate muscle spasms and tension
- Heat therapy to increase blood flow to the affected area of your body
- Cold therapy to reduce inflammation
- Nerve stimulation from a machine that delivers highly targeted electrical currents to the affected area
If you experience daily pain that interferes with your quality of life, you may think your only option for relief is to take powerful pain medications. Many individuals report significant pain relief during and after undergoing physical therapy. Physical therapy is natural and, for the most part, free of harmful side effects. If pain is preventing you from enjoying life to the fullest, we encourage you to contact our team at Greater Austin Orthopaedics & Physical Therapy. The doctors and therapists at our South Austin and Southwest Austin offices will take a complete health history and spend time learning about your concerns to determine if you are a candidate for physical therapy. Our physical therapists will then create a targeted physical therapy schedule for you, designed to deliver relief.