How Physical Therapy Can Improve Chronic Pain

April 9, 2021

physical therapy for chronic painOne of the worst things about chronic pain is that it can interfere with everyday life. It’s not that you can’t run a marathon, it’s that you can’t reach down to tie your shoes. It may also negatively affect your ability to concentrate, relax, and enjoy life. While there are many treatments available for chronic pain, physical therapy (PT) for chronic pain is often a good option to not only help manage pain, but to regain the ability to perform daily activities. 

We often recommend physical therapy for our patients at Southside Pain Specialists, and we can guide you in finding the right one. You’ll probably need a series of visits, and for best results you should practice some of the exercises at home.

Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain

Your first physical therapy session for chronic pain will be an initial evaluation. You will meet your physical therapist and discuss your condition. Your therapist will ask questions about your pain, such as whether it presents constantly or intermittently and how it affects your life. They may ask what you’ve found that makes it better or worse. Your therapist may also review your overall medical history and may perform various tests and measures to find any factors related to your pain, such as:

  • Range of motion
  • Posture
  • Strength
  • Balance
  • Endurance

After your initial evaluation, your physical therapist will work with you to develop realistic and attainable goals. Goals may include: pain relief, extended range of motion, increased strength,  improved functional mobility, and more. You will schedule your first session, and then you may have sessions weekly for a certain number of days per week.

Once your sessions have started, they may include a mix of the following:

  • Low-impact aerobic training — These workouts will get your heart rate going while taking it easy on your joints. For instance, you might use a stationary bike to warm up before you do your strengthening exercises.
  • Strengthening exercises — This might include weight machines, resistance bands, hand-held weights, or your own body weight for lunges, squats, or pushups. You may work on your core muscles (belly, glutes, and back), as well as other parts of your body.
  • Pain relief exercises — This will target areas where you have pain to help make you stronger and more flexible.
  • Stretching — Stretching should always be gentle, and your therapist will make sure that you’re warmed up properly.
  • Heat and ice packs — Ice calms inflammation, and heat warms up your muscles so they move better. Both can help with pain.
  • Massage — Massaging areas that are injured, sore, or that hurt may not feel relaxing, but your therapist knows how to do it in a way that can be helpful for you. 
  • TENS and ultrasound — Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, uses a device to send a low-voltage electric current to the skin in the area where you have pain. Ultrasound sends sound waves to the areas that hurt. Both may offer relief by blocking the pain messages that go to your brain.

Physical therapy should not hurt, and it will be safe. It will push you, but it shouldn’t be too much. Because you’ll use parts of your body that are injured or have chronic pain, physical therapy can be challenging. You might be sore after stretching or deep tissue massage. But it’s actually a good thing. Your therapist will have a plan based on your specific needs. 

You will also receive recommendations about things you can do at home. This may include some of your physical therapy exercises, and other advice, such as:

  • Keeping up with your normal activities as much as possible.
  • Avoiding long periods of bed rest, which will not improve your pain and may make it worse. 
  • Improving your posture by making adjustments so your body can work at optimal efficiency to reduce joint stress and help reduce your symptoms.
  • Learning fully about your condition so you will better understand what is occurring in your body.
  • Maintaining healthy activity levels and improving your overall health.

It’s important to remember that each person responds differently to therapy. Your body type, daily activities, alignment, and habits all affect your plan. This is why working with a physical therapist and attending therapy sessions are so important. You will have help making a plan and receive advice about any adjustments that need to be made. Even though it can be challenging, if you stick with it, you will see the benefits. 

Start your pain management journey by scheduling an appointment at Southside Pain Specialists

With highly specialized training and a multitude of pain relief options, Southside Pain Specialists follow the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine, and the International Spinal Injection Society. We work hard to provide patients with comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.