How does physical therapy help people manage pain?
When it comes to pain management, physical therapy is a highly effective tool to have in your toolkit. A skilled physical therapist incorporates stretching, strengthening and education to help reduce pain and improve overall daily functioning, and can help improve range of motion, balance, flexibility, and strength, reduce stiffness, and increase independence.
However, physical therapy can also be part of a combined approach that includes complementary treatments.
What other pain management treatments are there?
An abundance of approaches to managing chronic pain means many options. It comes down to deciding which ones fit your needs best and are available in your area.
Here are a few you may want to consider.
- Acupuncture and physical therapy are both effective at relieving pain and reducing inflammation. Acupuncture is a component ofT raditional Chinese Medicine that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body. It can help reduce muscle tension and calm the nervous system, while physical therapy works to strengthen and restore healthy movement patterns. When used together, they work synergistically to improve the results that each might provide separately.
- Therapeutic massage can enhance the ability of physical therapy to relieve chronic pain. Swedish/deep tissue massage—the most commonly practiced—relaxes muscles, tendons, and joints, relieves stress and anxiety, and possibly interferes with pain messages sent to and from the brain. Massage offers physical and emotional benefits, including strengthening the immune system, improving circulation, and improving mood and feelings of wellbeing. Craniosacral therapy, myofascial release therapy, and movement therapy/reeducation approaches such as Feldenkrais method, Alexander technique, and Rolf movement work are other massage modalities that complement physical therapy.
- Meditation can be effective for reducing chronic pain in some people, even those new to the technique. Although meditation techniques vary widely, the basics involve focusing on your breath and cultivating awareness of the present moment. Meditation activates the body’s opioid system, retrains the brain to change how you perceive pain, and can ease depression and anxiety associated with chronic pain.
- Personal Training helps you achieve your health goals in ways that augment a physical therapy program. While physical therapists diagnose movement problems and prescribe an appropriate rehab program to strengthen and improve balance, a personal trainer can step in (once you are medically cleared to begin an exercise program) to help further your fitness goals. If you decide to work with a physical therapist and a personal trainer at the same time, it’s critical that they communicate with one another over the course of your therapy. This enables them to provide the most informed treatment for you and help combine your goals into an integrated program.
The list goes on! Other options include yoga, biofeedback, chiropractic, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, electrical stimulation therapies, magnetic stimulation therapies, nutritional therapy, and herbal medicine,to name a few.
Are these treatments safe?
The safety of any treatment will vary depending on a person’s condition and symptoms. Always speak with your doctor and your physical therapist when considering a new therapy to ensure it’s safe and appropriate for you. On the whole, think of your doctors, physical therapists, and other healthcare providers as part of your health team, working collaboratively to provide the best care for you.
Speak with a physical therapist about your pain and symptoms
Would you like to add a complementary treatment to your pain management program? Our team can evaluate your symptoms and medical history and suggest approaches that fit your needs. Book an appointment today and let’s get started!