Physical therapy is a practice that uses active and passive techniques to treat, heal, and prevent injuries or disabilities. Trained, licensed physical therapists are experts in relieving pain, improving mobility, and restoring function to different areas of the body.
As such, many chronic pain patients may attend physical therapy sessions in order to help their pain.
Physical therapy is just one component of a comprehensive pain management program. Patients may integrate physical therapy sessions with acupuncture, guided relaxation, interventional procedures, or supplements.
Physical therapy, however, provides many opportunities for pain relief. This is done with acute or passive modes of therapy. Passive physical therapy may be the first step, especially when any type of movement is met with intense pain. These techniques may include:
- Heat and ice packs
- TENS units
Another more specialized form of physical therapy is manual therapy. This treatment technique is similar to massage, but more directed. Physical therapists use their hands to manipulate joints and muscle tissues. This treatment is beginning to be used for acute and chronic back pain.
The type of physical therapy that likely comes to mind when you think about the term is active physical therapy. This includes the stretching and strengthening exercises that many therapists use to increase mobility and strength. It can also include low-impact aerobic exercises.
When starting up active therapy, do know that there may be some initial discomfort.
It should be pain associated with stretching and building muscle, though, not severe or sharp pain. If the pain becomes too intense or uncomfortable, talk to your therapist. He or she may recommend easing into the exercises more slowly. Performing therapy in a pool may also be an option as water therapy has less impact on your body. It can also help you get ready for more intense exercise programs.
As part of the field’s efforts to help chronic pain patients, the American Physical Therapy Association teamed up with guests from The Discovery Channel documentary, Pain Matters, to discuss the role of physical therapy in treating chronic pain conditions. Physical therapists remain an important link in fighting the symptoms of chronic pain for many patients.
Have you undergone physical therapy to treat your pain?
Image by Nazareth College via Flickr