Rehabilitative Health

Working with a Physical Therapist

What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is a condition that occurs when your brain perceives a threat to your well-being based on signals it receives from the body. Often, it begins with body tissue damage caused by injury or illnesses like osteoarthritis. However, it can – and often does – occur independently of any actual body tissue damage and/or beyond normal tissue healing time.

If you suffer from chronic pain, the last thing you may want to do is engage in any form of activity. And yet, people who suffer from chronic pain are typically weaker from not moving – which usually only exacerbates their pain.

Why See a Physical Therapist for Chronic Pain?

Your physical therapist will work with you to educate you on chronic pain, find solutions to improve your quality of life, and get you moving again. While it may feel like movement will only make your pain worse, the truth is that it can actually bring relief. Studies show that for most chronic pain sufferers, keeping a consistent exercise routine can help control pain.

What Will Seeing a Physical Therapist Include?

On your first visit, your physical therapist will take a detailed history, conduct a clinical exam, and administer various tests to identify the underlying cause of your pain. He or she will then create a personalized treatment plan to help you improve your strength and flexibility and better cope with pain in your daily life.

Depending on the source of your pain, your plan may include education on chronic pain, coaching to optimize your lifestyle choices, strengthening and flexibility exercises, manual therapy, and/or training on posture awareness and body mechanics.

What are the Benefits?

In addition to making you stronger and relieving your pain, physical therapy can help you return to normal levels of activity, prevent further injury, and even avoid surgery. If you have been prescribed opioids, it can help you lower your dosage and need for medication, which in turn will decrease your risk of side effects like depression, overdose, and addiction, plus withdrawal symptoms when stopping use. 

An Expert Weighs In

"According to recent guidelines from teh Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines (CDC), nondrug approaches to treating chronic pain - such as seeing a physical therapist - are preferred to long-term or high-dosage use of prescriptions painkillers. Physical therapists partner with patients, their families, and other health care professionals to manage pain and can often reduce or eliminate the need for opioids. Research has shown that even a simple education session with a physical therapist can lead to improved function, range of motion, and decreased pain."

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