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 may sound like sheer torture, it may actually be one of the best pain management options for your chronic pain.
Physical Therapy for Pain Management
Physical therapy is used to alleviate sources of chronic pain, including:
- Chronic headaches
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Neuropathic pain (pain caused by injury to tissues or nerves)
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:
- 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
- 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.