Chronic pain can be caused by many factors, from illnesses such as fibromyalgia to poorly healed injuries. Regardless of the cause of your pain, it can be life-limiting. You might plan your days around your pain or even cancel events at the last minute because the pain is simply too much to bear. Fortunately, physical therapy can dramatically reduce all forms of chronic pain.
Understanding Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is a broad-based field that focuses on preventing, treating, and managing physical disabilities from injuries to ongoing pain. A licensed physical therapist is highly trained in anatomy and kinesiology, or the science of movement. This means that physical therapists have a nuanced understanding of how the various muscles, ligaments, joints, and tendons work together to create normal body movements, and the ways in which things can go wrong.
Physical therapy is highly individualized. The goal is to assess exactly what is causing your pain, to identify the physical structures that are not working optimally, and then to create and implement a targeted treatment plan. This customization makes physical therapy an ideal choice for managing chronic pain, as everyone’s pain is unique.
What to Expect from Physical Therapy
Your first visit will consist of a detailed assessment. We will ask questions about your pain, factors that improve it or make it worse, any current diagnoses you have, and anything in your medical history that could be related to your current pain. Then we will perform a clinical evaluation.
Depending on what we learn during the discussion, your physical therapist might measure your range of motion in certain joints, ask you to complete common movements such as walking or sitting, measure any swelling, and/or perform a manual examination of sore areas. The goal of this examination is to reach a conclusion as to the cause of your pain and the best way to go about treating it.
Sample Treatments for Chronic Pain
Your individualized treatment plan will depend on the results of your evaluation. Below are a few commonly used treatments for chronic pain. Keep in mind that your plan might not include all of them, and your therapist may add some that are not detailed here. In addition, some treatments might be performed in the office, while others are assigned for you to work on at home.
- Ice and heat: A combination of ice and heat is a very common home remedy for chronic pain. Ice reduces swelling, while heat relaxes the muscles and encourages blood flow. Your physical therapist might give you instructions for alternating ice and heat throughout the day.
- Stretching and strengthening exercises: A strong core stabilizes the body, while stretching lengthens the muscles to reduce spasms. Your physical therapist will perform assisted exercises in the office, and then assign you specific exercises to practice between sessions.
- Suspension Therapy: Used to unweight the body so we can concentrate on the smaller muscle groups to help stabilize the joints and get your body stronger along the proper muscle chains.
- Laser Therapy treatment: Often used alongside other modalities, laser therapy treatment uses a handheld wand to emit light waves that create a regeneration of the tissues.
- Deep tissue therapy (Acupressure): Chronic pain is often caused or worsened by deep muscle spasms, and Deep Tissue therapy or Acupressure is an excellent way to relieve them. There is some discomfort associated with the Acupressure but the pain is temporary and the results are longer lasting than typical massage from a spa.
Everyone is unique, so it is impossible to predict exactly what your treatment plan will be. In general, though, expect to work hard both in the office and at home. Staying open and engaged will ensure that you achieve the best possible results from your physical therapy.
Founded by physical therapy innovator Dr. Joseph Simon, the Manhattan Physical Therapy and Pain Center is a leader in pain relief and injury recovery conveniently located in Midtown New York City. We offer several dedicated programs for different conditions, along with the latest innovations in physical therapy for all. If you are ready for the latest treatments for your pain or injury, we invite you to call us today at (212) 213-3480 to learn how we can help.