Chronic pain is one of the most common health conditions facing Americans today, as more than 100 million people deal with some form of chronic pain on a regular basis. This number will likely only increase as the large Baby Boomer population hits retirement age and beyond, so we need to be ready to attack the problems associated with chronic pain head on. Oftentimes the best way to do that is with physical therapy.
What Is Chronic Pain?
As the name implies, chronic pain is a condition in which pain persists for weeks, months or even years. Pain is a natural bodily response to alert you of a problem, but when it doesn’t fade and resolve, your pain is considered chronic. There are countless forms of chronic pain, which is why so many Americans are dealing with at least one type of chronic pain. There is chronic pain following trauma or surgery, arthritis-related chronic pain, pain from overuse and natural degeneration and there are even forms of the condition that develop with no identifiable cause.
Because there are so many different types of chronic pain, there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment course for the condition. However, in the vast majority of cases, physical therapy is recommended either as a stand alone treatment or as part of a multifaceted therapeutic approach.
How PT Helps With Chronic Pain
Although each person with chronic pain is different, physical therapy can typically be helpful in one way or another for someone dealing with chronic pain. Some of the ways physical therapy can help with your pain condition include:
- Joint Strengthening – Many causes of chronic pain are associated with degeneration or damage in a joint. Physical therapists can help to strengthen the joint and its supportive structures, and we can also improve your flexibility and range of motion. Joint movement, when performed correctly, actually helps to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Promotes Healing and Circulation – Many patients develop chronic pain simply because they spend a lot of time in the same position, and this can contribute to poor blood circulation. Movement activities and helping patients develop a stretching routine can help structures prone to pain get the healthy blood they need to function properly.
- Avoid Opioids – Physical therapy is an active treatment that focuses on the underlying problem instead of just masking the symptoms of pain, like painkillers can do. Painkillers can play a pivotal role in helping dull pain so you can perform your physical therapy exercises, but opioids aren’t going to do anything to treat the root cause of your pain if you’re not pairing them with another active treatment. Many patients find that PT helps to reduce or eliminate pain, which frees them from the need to rely on painkillers to manage their chronic condition.
- Education and Self-Management Skills – Finally, physical therapy is often wonderful for patients with chronic pain because we can give you the skills you need to manage your condition on your own. We’ll teach you about your posture and how it can contribute to things like chronic low back pain or frequent tension headaches, or we can explain how a stretching routine can help relieve painful inflammation. Our experts can look at your individual situation and help you develop a plan to manage your pain now and in the future so you have more control over your health going forward.
For more information, or for help dealing with your chronic pain condition, reach out to the experienced staff at OrthoRehab PT today.