Physical therapy for pain management
Living with pain can affect your quality of life, both physically and emotionally. There are ways that physiotherapy and pain management strategies can improve your wellbeing.
Pain can present in many ways; from a dull ache to a sharp stabbing sensation and can range from mild to intense. Your pain may be localised to one part of your body, or it may be widespread. There are many ways that your physiotherapist can assist you with the management of pain without the reliance on pain medication.
There are two main types of pain: acute and chronic. Acute pain is usually short-lived and starts suddenly. It can result from injury, surgical pain, trauma (broken bone, cut or burn) or muscle strain. It often resolves when the cause of the pain has been treated or has healed.
Chronic pain is different, your body continues to send pain signals to your brain, even after an injury heals, and can last for an extended period. Chronic pain can limit your mobility and reduce your flexibility, strength, and endurance, making it challenging to complete daily tasks and activities. Chronic pain can be intense and unrelenting and lead to various degrees of disability if it is not managed well.
Some of the most common types of chronic pain include:
- Manual therapy: such as myofascial release, joint, soft tissue and nerve mobilisation and manipulation
- Heat and cold: the use of ice packs can reduce swelling after an injury. Heat packs are more effective for relieving chronic muscle or joint injuries
- Massage: better suited to soft tissue injuries
- Guided exercise: such as walking, stretching, strengthening or cardio exercises may help reduce pain, keep you mobile and improve your mood
- Acupuncture/needling: involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the skin. It aims to restore balance within the body and promote healing by releasing natural pain-relieving compounds (endorphins)
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy: minute electrical currents pass through the skin via electrodes, prompting a pain-relieving response from the body
What to expect from a physiotherapy consultation for pain management
Your physiotherapist will perform a physical examination and learn more about your history and other factors contributing to the pain. In most cases of acute pain, the pain will settle as the tissue heals. Your physiotherapist will explain the nature of the injury and expected healing times. They may provide early treatment, but in many cases, advice regarding self-management strategies, including gentle exercise, will be enough to help resolve the pain and return you to full function.
In situations where the pain has become chronic, assessment and management may be more complex. Issues other than tissue damage may be contributing to your pain, which your physiotherapist will investigate. At all stages of pain management, physiotherapists will work with you to encourage self-management, remain active as appropriate, and avoid a reliance on pain relief medication.
If you experience pain or difficulty with movement, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Here’s a blog article of ours to read if you’d like some simple strategies to assist you when your pain flares up.